Return-to-campus plans include option for some from Duke to start the school year in China

Posted April 29, 2020 2:25 p.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2020 8:07 p.m. EDT

— Major universities across the Triangle are studying the data and considering the option to allow students back to campus for the coming academic year.

On Wednesday, University of North Carolina Interim President Dr. Bill Roper said he expects all 17 UNC campuses will reopen this fall. Duke has yet to finalize a decision, but one option would give international students the chance to start their year in China.

Roper said schools across the UNC system might use staggered or shortened academic calendars, and make efforts to reduce crowding in student housing and classrooms.

"Our chancellors will have flexibility to determine what local steps they need to take to protect all students, staff and faculty, especially high-risk populations, both on campus and off. They will have the ability to put unique precautions in place," Roper said in a statement.

UNC-Chapel Hill has already moved to an "online experience" for orientation for the incoming freshman class.

"As of today, we remain optimistic that we can begin classes back on campus in mid-August, but it may look and feel a little different than a typical Carolina fall semester," Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in a statement. "While it is still too early to know the exact plan for the fall, we are being thoughtful and extremely deliberate in our process."

At North Carolina State University, Mick Kulikowski, director of strategic communications and media relations, said, "We're doing everything possible, in partnership with state and local leadership, to provide in-person instruction for the fall semester. But we're also planning for every contingency and will be fully prepared to adjust our fall plans as needed based on conditions at the time."

Students at all UNC campuses have been taking online classes since late March.

Mike Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University, said a decision there would likely not be made until June.

"Right now we simply do not have enough information," he said. "I don't think anybody does, to make a determination."

Shoenfeld praised the innovation and resilience of the Duke community as students, staff and instructors have adapted to remote learning. Some of that is likely to continue into the coming school year, he said.

"I think we're all reasonably confident that, at least for the next year, we will have some combination of remote delivery and on-campus delivery," he said.

With a large population of international students, Duke is offering those who can't make it to Durham will have the opportunity to start the academic year at Duke Kunshan University in China, which likely will reopen in a matter of weeks. In reverse, DKU students who live in the United States will have the option of starting classes in Durham.

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