Coronavirus: Wittenberg University outlines fall plans, hopeful students will return

Wittenberg University’s president says the school is working to prepare campus for students to return, hopefully in the fall.

“We know that there’s a lot that may have to be different. We’ll have to think differently about time and space on our campus, and we’ll have to be sure to keep people safe,” Michael Frandsen said.

A Health & Safety Advisory Group at Wittenberg has been meeting on a regular basis since the beginning of this month to discuss what needs to be done to prepare campus, said Gary Williams, co-chair of the group and vice president and director of athletics and recreation.

“The number one priority is and always will be the health safety of the campus community and the local community,” he said.

The goal of the group is to do what they can to provide guidance on when and how the campus should be reopening.

“We have been following the governors lead, as well as anything from the CDC on how they are progressing and moving forward,” Williams said.

Coronavirus: Wittenberg announces new graduation date

Williams said there has not been anything specific for higher education, but they are taking cues from what the governor says in terms of reopening.

If plans to resume in-person classes this fall are allowed, everyone will follow local, state and federal health guidelines, Frandsen said.

“At no time will we compromise the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors, so if we need to shift our planning at any point, we will,” he said. “We are preparing for a return to on-campus instruction, but also for other scenarios.”

Some of what the university is doing could include smaller class sizes, modifications to student housing and dining services, hybrid courses, re-imagined classrooms and meeting spaces, different schedules, and re-thinking of campus events and athletic competitions.

“Expectations regarding testing, contact tracing methods, and proper self-isolation procedures are also essential considerations in this process,” Frandsen said.

There is also a committee working to put together implementation plans on how the campus functions will work going forward, Williams said.

This includes four scenarios that involve different combinations of remote and on-campus instructions with different possible start dates.

“It’s fair to say they know there is pressure on a lot of institutions giving people definitive information regarding what’s going to happen, but we need to be patient,” he said. “They’re using the best leadership and judgment they can - over communicating, trying to be patient, thoughtful, and keep the health and safety of campus community at the forefront of decision making.”

Clark State, Wittenberg connect with students during distance learning

There are no specific steps and there have not been any decisions on how to reopen, but the hope is to have plans in place by July 1 for what the fall will look like, Williams said.

As the university plans to reopen, they will continue to follow guidance from local and state health departments, as well as the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

“We continue to engage every day with our colleges and universities as they develop summer and fall education plans that have the safety and health of students, faculty and staff as the top priority. We continue to work with campus leadership, the Ohio Department of Health and other to determine the guidelines and standards that will allow our campuses to be open for learning,” said Chancellor Randy Gardner.

All the details and answers are not currently known, Frandsen said, and the university will release that information as it is learned.

“Come August, it is our intention for Wittenberg to return, stronger than ever, and to celebrate its 175th anniversary of teaching, learning, and serving,” he said. “We look forward to welcoming our community back to campus soon.”

Registration for the fall semester has already begun, and tuition will not change as the university’s expectation is to be on campus in the fall, even as they plan for other possibilities.

About the Author