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UNM planning how to reopen in the fall

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Using one-way hallways and perhaps rotating which students are required to attend class, officials at the University of New Mexico are brainstorming ways to hold classes in the fall.

Administrators on UNM’s main campus and the chancellor of the Health Sciences Center are assuming that in-person classes will resume in the fall. But they said during virtual meetings this week that much will depend on city and state public health orders.

“We have to align with the state and the city,” Provost James Holloway said during a regents committee meeting Thursday. “We can’t get ahead of them.”

HSC Chancellor Dr. Paul Roth said in a virtual chat that it will depend on how they can reopen safely.

“It’s not really a question in my mind so much as when students will come back, it’s how we’re going to do it,” he said.

Most of UNM’s student body of about 22,000, from undergraduates to medical students, haven’t been on campus since before their spring break in March. UNM President Garnett Stokes announced this week that May 2020 graduates will have a virtual graduation ceremony as opposed to a traditional commencement, with plans to hold an in-person ceremony at a later date.

Holloway said multiple working groups on the main campus are coming up with strategies to bring students back, which will include wearing masks and other social distancing measures.

For example, he said it’s likely there won’t be large gatherings even after classes resume. So, large lectures that meet three days a week could potentially draw only a third of the students to each class while the rest watch online.

The school is also likely to change the flow of buildings to have one-way hallways, modify cleaning procedures and reduce student events. And much will also depend on the capacity to test students and employees for COVID-19 and trace the illness.

There will also be contingency plans in place in case additional social distancing measures are required.

“One of the challenges is that people would like definitive answers … but, of course, there’s so much we don’t know,” Holloway said. “We do know we are going to be under various levels of social distancing and public health orders for the next year or more. We’re not going to be out from under this in the fall and probably next spring.”

Stokes said that while no decision has been made about college football, she’s hopeful a season could be held in some fashion.

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