SOSU president outlines plans to reopen in the fall

SOSU's president says students will be back for in-person classes in the fall, but life on...
SOSU's president says students will be back for in-person classes in the fall, but life on campus will look a little different.(KXII)
Published: Jun. 9, 2020 at 7:42 PM CDT
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When the coronavirus pandemic forced Southeastern Oklahoma State to shut down the campus and move the remainder of the spring semester online, university president Thomas Newsom said the transition was "seamless."

Now, with online summer classes fully underway, Newsom said the university saw its highest summer enrollment in the last 35 years.

"We are at an all-time high, just below about 3,000 students for the summer," Newsom said. "Up about 22 percent from where we were last summer and that is due to the success of our faculty and staff during the spring semester."

But classes aren't staying online forever. Vice President of Student Affairs Liz McCraw is heading an SOSU coronavirus task force that includes health professionals, faculty senate members and community members.

Newsom said the task force's goal is to get campus ready for students to return for in-person instruction by mid-August.

"We are looking at ways to make sure we have a safe environment for our students, a safe environment for our faculty and staff," Newsome said. "That includes maybe some changes in how we deliver those courses face to face, maybe the students don’t all meet together at the same time, maybe they do have some kind of hybrid delivery.

Newsom said the task force is working on accommodating social distancing, and safety-first measures to all facets of university life.

That includes residence halls with one student per dorm, "hybrid" delivery of classes where students and professors don't meet face-to-face every class period and requiring social distancing in specific areas on campus.

"We have a large footprint, about 600 students that traditionally live on campus, about 3000 students that come to Durant during the week to engage in face-to-face classes here on the main campus," Newsom said. "That is a footprint that will have a lasting impact on our city if we don’t make sure we’re providing a safe environment for those folks."

Newsom said students and faculty will be responsible for self-monitoring for symptoms of the Coronavirus when they return to campus. However, the university will provide PPE and face masks to all students faculty and staff and they will be required to wear them in designated areas on campus where close contact with others is inevitable.

We’re going to make sure we have the proper places to quarantine students if we need to do so for students who might come down with the virus or have symptoms of the virus," Newsom said. "We’re going to monitor and ask people to self-monitor and then provide those facilities if we need to to make sure that we can provide that safe and healthy environment for students."

The task force will also be working on a plan to safely reopen other important facets of university life, like athletics.

"They’ll look at in the coming weeks in terms of how we do social distancing in those types of environments," Newsom said.

Newsom said his message to parents and students is "we're all in this together" and he's "really excited" about getting students back on campus.

"Southeastern Oklahoma State University has a very, and is a very, vibrant and active community," Newsom said. "When our students are here, and when our faculty and staff are here engaging students in that college experience is very very important to us."