CSU plans to reopen for in-person classes this fall

Charleston Southern University plans to resume on-campus instruction for the fall 2020 semester while implementing appropriately strict safety protocols to protect the campus and our local community.

“Since the first day of this pandemic, we have closely monitored its trajectory with an eye toward safely returning students to campus. As always, we want them to experience the difference a Charleston Southern education makes in preparing servant leaders to pursue significant lives,” President Dondi Costin said.

CSU’s approach to reentry will be in step with the governor’s accelerateSC initiative and the One Region reIGNITE plan, a collective regional strategy to begin economic stabilization and workplace recovery for the greater Charleston area. In addition, the university continues to collaborate with government leaders, state and local health officials, other universities, and an array of higher education experts to ensure the safest, most effective resumption of campus life.

“We are joining forces with partners from every corner of our community to ensure Charleston Southern’s full impact continues to be felt across the region. In military terms, our strategy can be described as ‘one team, one fight.’ We are all in this together,” said Costin.

Dr. Jackie Fish, vice president for academic affairs, is leading the CSU reIGNITE Task Force. In addition to a career in law enforcement and academic leadership in criminal justice prior to her current position, Fish is a nationally recognized instructor in disaster preparedness and emergency management. She has assembled a planning team of faculty and staff members with expertise in medicine, public health, nursing, academic scheduling, residence life and athletics. This team will ensure the campus is ready for students, faculty and staff to return in the safest manner possible.

“As our state and local community prepare to reopen, we are right there with them. We will continue to monitor health conditions and will adjust our plans should conditions change, but we expect to welcome our Bucs to campus this fall,” Fish said.

Board of Trustees Chair and longtime corporate CEO Ken Evans said that the phased approach for the CSU campus is based on data, takes advantage of the best available science, and aligns with area businesses returning to full employment. “I enthusiastically support the way President Costin and CSU leadership are attacking this challenge. It’s logical, methodical and flexible enough for the team to pivot as the situation unfolds. We anticipate a new normal this fall, but one that holds fast to our standing commitment to providing the highest quality education in the safest possible environment,” Evans said.

Consistent with the One Region reIGNITE framework, Phase 1 and 2 bring faculty and staff to campus who have worked remotely since mid-March, and Phase 3 will invite students back as soon as it is safe to do so.

The main points of the plan:

Beginning June 1, offices will start phasing in employees to return to campus. Some employees may still telework during this phase if they are considered high-risk, share close quarters with someone in a high-risk category, or to accommodate childcare issues generated by the coronavirus. The reIGNITE Task Force will consider a variety of approaches to ensure the success of this phase, including essential deep cleaning between shifts, staggered work times, alternating workdays, and other means of reducing the density of personnel in shared spaces. Assuming the coronavirus curve has been sufficiently flattened, the campus will reopen at full capacity on July 6, which may include hosting Summer II courses on campus and inviting student-athletes to return. Summer II term begins June 29.

Move-In Weekend is scheduled to start on August 21, with classroom instruction set to begin on Monday, August 24. This summer, however, the reIGNITE Task Force will prepare plans to start the fall semester up to two weeks early or a few weeks later if warranted by the apparent course of the pandemic.

The campus will establish appropriate testing protocols to actively and accurately trace contacts of those who test positive for the virus.

CSU will have a sufficient stockpile of critical equipment and supplies for reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission on campus, including face masks and hand sanitizer.
Common spaces, classrooms and individual residence hall rooms will be sanitized prior to the return of students on campus.

The number of students allowed per residence hall room will be established based on recommendations of public health officials no less than 14 days before the semester begins. Special consideration will be given for students in certain high-risk categories.

A number of rooms will be set aside to quarantine those who may test positive for COVID-19 but are unable to return home during the quarantine period. Special provisions will be made for these students to continue their education without putting others at risk during their quarantine.

Dining services will provide grab-and-go meals this summer for students, faculty and staff on campus when face-to-face classes resume. In the fall, the status of the pandemic will guide our approach to student dining, which may include continuing grab-and-go for all, enforcing social distancing protocols in the dining hall, and dining in shifts if a return to normal dining routines is not advised.

The CSU reIGNITE Task Force will recommend similar social distancing guidelines to ensure the safe resumption of face-to-face classroom activities. Possible solutions include reducing class sizes to increase social distancing, allowing students to alternate online learning and in-class instruction weekly (to ensure every student enjoys quality time with their professors), and extending the teaching day to maximize use of space in the interest of social distancing, among others.

The task force’s recommendations will also include the safe resumption of athletic events on campus, paying special attention to NCAA and Big South Conference guidelines.

The reIGNITE Task Force, in consultation with CSU faculty, staff and administration, will finalize their recommendations by June 30 to ensure the campus is ready to care for students, faculty and staff.

“We could not have imagined even three months ago the need for a task force to reignite the flame of face-to-face learning. Yet here we are, along with every other university in the country. We are quickly beginning to imagine what face-to-face learning will look like three months from now,” Costin said. “During this challenging season, I have been impressed beyond words at the resilience, creativity and faith of the entire CSU community. Without question, the same traits that allowed us to turn on a dime to finish this semester remotely will fan the flame required for us to resume in-person classes this fall. With the Lord on our side, it’s undeniably true that the best is yet to come.”

Current and prospective students and their families are invited to a Facebook Live Q&A session on Friday, May 15 at 11 a.m. where financial aid, residence life, student life, admissions, and academic representatives will answer burning questions related to potential impacts of COVID-19 and CSU’s current plans.

Updates will continue to be posted at charlestonsouthern.edu/campus-health.