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Inland Northwest university plans: How COVID-19 is changing colleges this fall

Here's what each university and college is planning for this fall.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Many universities around the Inland Northwest are releasing their plans on whether to hold classes in-person, through online methods or through a hybrid approach due to safety concerns around the coronavirus pandemic.

With the fall semester just weeks away for higher education institutions in the region, students are awaiting this information from their schools as they make plans before the beginning of class.

Many universities have already released their guidelines or plans. This article will be updated as more universities release their plans.

Spokane Community Colleges

Spokane Community College is allowing student to choose between in-person or online classes.

According to the school's website, the fall quarter will be highlighted by a large number of in-person programs and courses returning to campus. Each quarter will also offer online and hybrid courses for students.

Courses are scheduled and designed to provide students the opportunity to engage in learning while also following safety protocols, according to the website. if a course is scheduled as an online course the student will retain the right to stay online throughout the quarter and not attend in person, the website says. 

All recreation facilities on campus will be closed until Phase 3 of Governor Jay Inslee's reopening plan. 

For more information, visit the school's website.

Eastern Washington University

Eastern Washington University announced Wednesday, Aug. 12 it will not hold in-person classes after Thanksgiving break, which runs from Nov. 25-27. 

According to a press release from the school, the decision will impact only a small number of students because most courses will be offered online. This means that any course or lab approved for in-person instruction will not meet in person after the holiday and instead will migrate to an online format.    

In-person classes for quarterly courses will run Sept. 23 - Nov. 24. Final exams will be online for Dec. 7-10.

In-person classes for semester courses will run Aug. 24-Nov. 20. Final exams will be online from Dec. 14-17.

The school previously announced that it would be resuming most classes online in the fall, with some exceptions.

The university said it will identify classes that can’t be taught online, like labs, that will move forward with in-person instruction. These classes will be held using “methods that reduce health risks” for staff and students, the university said.

The university’s plan would also allow for classes to switch to in-person if health restrictions are eased going forward. Students are allowed to live in on-campus housing during the semester, but only one person is allowed to live in each room.

More information on EWU’s plans for the fall can be found on their coronavirus website.

Gonzaga University

Gonzaga University is asking students to acknowledge the risk of contracting coronavirus when returning to campus this fall. 

The school created a COVID-19 Notice and Acknowledgement of Student Risk because they "cannot guarantee that our campus will be free from COVID-19," the school's website says.  

"We recognize that there is much uncertainty around what campus will look like when you return, but we want to assure you that our staff and faculty have been working tirelessly since the Spring to create an environment that you deserve," the website says. "There is nothing easy about planning for a future that seems so uncertain." 

Faculty at Gonzaga have been encouraged to "determine the mode of course delivery that best supports the subject matter to be taught while respecting the right of the faculty member to work in a manner that supports their own health, and that of their family," according to a message to parents and families.

Due to this, Gonzaga told students to expect "many courses will be taught dynamically and remotely," including some in-person classes, some online classes and others taught through a hybrid model.

Faculty have also been asked to prepare to teach classes remotely when possible, even if they choose to do a in-person or hybrid approach.

According to Gonzaga's "ZagOn 2020" website, "Gonzaga will resume campus operations, including course instruction, on-campus housing, dining and student services, for Fall Semester 2020."

Classes will begin on September 1, according to the university, and conclude on December 11, with finals ending on December 18. 

Students can choose to return home for Thanksgiving Break or stay on campus through the end of the semester, but all classes will be "distance delivery" after Thanksgiving Break. Gonzaga said it will asking students who travel outside of Spokane County during the break to not return to campus for the semester. 

More can be found on the university's website.

Washington State University

Washington State University announced on July 24 that it will only offer online learning for students at its Pullman campus in the upcoming fall semester, with extremely limited in-person instruction exceptions.

WSU’s other campuses will announce plans for fall learning at a later date.

The university previously said on June 24 that it didn’t intend to bring students back for the fall semester.

More can be found on Washington State University’s reopening plan website.

RELATED: WSU decides to shift to online learning only for fall 2020

Whitworth University

Whitworth University previously announced plans to reopen the school this fall, saying their goal was to hold classes in-person.

"There are still many unanswered questions, but Whitworth’s goal is to begin the fall semester in a residential, in-person format," Whitworth President Beck Taylor wrote in the plan. "That means that residence halls will be open, classes will be hosted on the main campus and in the University District, and our mind-and-heart education will resume in many of the familiar ways that contribute to the intellectual and spiritual formation of our students."

Taylor also said that going back to full normalcy may not be possible, but that he’s convinced students can continue with on-campus instruction with the proper safeguards in place.

The university’s faculty and administration are also working to develop alternatives for students who may need them when classes resume.

More information about Whitworth University’s plan for fall courses can be found on their coronavirus FAQ website.

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University of Idaho

The University of Idaho emphasized its plans on holding in-person classes again on August 24.

In a letter from University President Scott Green, he said this will only be possible because of the progress they've made with healthcare experts and their partners at Gritman Medical Center to design safety protocols.

"We continue to implement a uniquely robust set of safety measures — including required testing of all students — to provide effective learning and work environments and a campus that is as safe as possible for students, faculty and staff," Green wrote. "More than 1,000 colleges and universities across the country plan to open with in-person classes this fall, including all four-year Idaho institutions and our competitors in Montana and Utah. While going on-line could make our job easier in some ways, it would be the worst possible outcome for many employees and students."

Face coverings are required in campus buildings and when social distancing can’t be maintained, according to the University’s website.

The university is also capping classroom capacity at 50% of the room's actual capacity, and providing free PPE to students, faculty and staff. 

The university said it's consulting Idaho Public Health, and Griman Medical Center, as well as keeping an eye on isolation space the university has available, positive case numbers in Latah county, case numbers within the U of I community, and infection modeling done by U of I faculty in it's decisions about whether to stay open, or move to distance learning.

The university will have an employee town hall meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 4 to discuss returning to campus for both students and employees. Participants must register ahead of time.

More about fall classes at the University of Idaho can be found on their coronavirus website.

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