OSU likely to return to in-person in fall, with changes

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Cara Nixon, News Contributor

Oregon State University officials are gaining confidence that the university community can return to in-person learning in the upcoming fall term, though on-site instruction won’t look completely normal.


The university has been sharing presumptive plans about returning to in-person learning for fall term since mid-February, but it now sees the chances of on-site instruction as more likely.

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OSU Vice President of University Relations and Marketing, Steve Clark, said this is largely due to announcements this past week from President Joe Biden and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown that a majority of American adults will be able to receive vaccinations against COVID-19 sooner this year than originally anticipated.


Biden notified the public on March 2 that the United States is on schedule to have enough COVID-19 vaccine supply “for every adult in America by the end of May.” Brown announced clarifications for the vaccine distribution process, including higher education staff and Oregonians over the age of 16.


“Those two announcements provided us further confidence that our plans for fall were headed in the right direction,” Clark said.


Returning to in-person learning, however, relies on the state of the pandemic by the late summer and fall. OSU will also be continuing to follow the advice of the federal and state governments and local health authorities.


Clark said there are a few ways the community can help ensure an in-person fall term.


“If all of us commit to utilizing personal and public health measures, along with the vaccines and as the university continues to provide testing, we believe those measures provide a greater opportunity to see each other on campus in fall,” Clark said.


Even if OSU returns to in-person learning for the fall term, it will not look like a typical, pre-pandemic term right away.


OSU anticipates that public health guidelines like mask-wearing and social distancing will continue, Clark said, and the university will continue to follow those recommendations. OSU will also be managing the density of classes and university events to minimize the risk and spread of the virus.


Clark also noted that outdoor activities on campus are likely to increase but will be managed with COVID-19 guidelines.


Due to the nature of the virus, there are some things OSU does not have a clear vision on yet, including fall sports, restrictions on Dixon Recreation Center and limits on the number of students allowed in a classroom. Clark said some traditionally larger classes may have to be divided into smaller sections.


For the time being, OSU is hopeful about returning to an in-person fall term and would like to celebrate this week of positive news.


“I think what’s really important is that we take this moment and say there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Clark said. “We’ve been on a marathon run for the last 10, 11 months, and we’re hopefully on that last stretch.”

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