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UNM plans reset with ‘hybrid fall semester’

A bicyclist wears a mask during a ride across the University of New Mexico campus last month in Albuquerque. Under a plan released Friday, everyone on campus will be required to wear masks. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

A little more than two months after in-person classes at the University of New Mexico came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, school leaders are hitting the reset button.

And, for now, it will be a whole new ball game.

Everyone who goes on the campus – students and visitors – will be required to wear masks indoors and out.

There will also be regular screening for the coronavirus.

And students and employees will be required to self-report symptoms or positive test results as UNM slowly brings people back on campus.

UNM will resume some of its essential operations that have been put on hold since March 13 and will begin preparing for a “hybrid fall term” that includes a mix of remote instruction and some in-person education in a controlled way that minimizes transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

A nine-page plan released by university officials Friday evening, dubbed “Bringing Back the Pack,” describes the early summer pilot phase where there will be limited in-person instruction, with everyone required to follow the governor’s mandated safety procedures.

Cinnamon Blair, a spokeswoman for the university, said that school officials hope the document creates a culture that emphasizes safety of others as people begin to return.

“It’s creating a culture of wellness … creating a culture where we take care of each other,” she said.

Beginning June 1, “essential operations”, which include research and creative work in person, and fall planning, will resume,” according to the guidelines. During that early phase, which will last until mid-July, a presidential leadership team will come up with additional details of how to safely bring more people back to campus in late-summer and fall.

But there will be no large lecture classes, and remote instruction and business will be encouraged to the greatest extent possible, according to the document, which is posted to UNM’s website.

“We hope to conduct classes, services and research activities, partly in person on our campuses and partly through remote delivery,” UNM President Garnett Stokes said in a letter accompanying the planning document. “We’ll do so in a way that is equitable, strategic, and always mindful of the health and well-being of the Lobo pack, across campuses and across communities.”

Stokes noted that the reopening of many university activities will be guided by science and public health directives.

“While this plan, out of necessity, was made quickly, it was never made in haste,” she wrote in the letter.

When the campus reopens on June 1, masks will be required, except when individuals are alone in offices. Social distancing rules will prohibit lingering in hallways or more than two or three people in an elevator. Some type of daily screening will take place, and positive tests and symptoms among students and employees are to be reported.

Guidelines to balance a person’s privacy while also reporting positive cases were included, but many details of how the university plans to screen, trace and enforce the requirements weren’t specified in the document.

“The goal of our actions – individual and collective – is to reduce and minimize transmission so that isolated cases do not become widespread infections,” the document states. “These behaviors are critically supported by the state’s testing capacity, and by aggressive contact tracing, either by the state or by capacity created within UNM.”

Most UNM coursework and other activities have been done remotely since mid-March when in-person classes were suspended and students were told to move out of dorms.

Bringing Back the Pack by Albuquerque Journal on Scribd

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