From left, Elli Brooks, Claire Gabel, Megan Moran and Malik Laffoon welcome new students to campus on move-in day at Anderson University last August. University officials are making plans to reopen the campus to in-person classes by the scheduled mid-August start date. File photo
From left, Elli Brooks, Claire Gabel, Megan Moran and Malik Laffoon welcome new students to campus on move-in day at Anderson University last August. University officials are making plans to reopen the campus to in-person classes by the scheduled mid-August start date. File photo
ANDERSON – As Anderson University enters its last week of finals for the 2019-20 school year, officials are making plans to reopen the campus to in-person classes by the scheduled mid-August start date.

“What we’ve been working on is a very deliberate plan to provide the safest environment, given the latest literature,” said AU President John Pistole about reopening the campus.

AU officials announced in March that rather than return to campus after spring break, students would start distance learning for a week because of the pandemic. However, as the severity of pandemic unfolded and other institutions of higher education turned to virtual education through the end of the academic year, AU officials decided to follow suit.

Though it’s subject to change, Gov. Eric Holcomb on Friday delivered a five-stage plan for the re-opening of Indiana’s economy starting with Stage 2 on Monday for most counties with what some consider an ambitious date of July 4 for a full re-opening. However, his decision on whether to re-open schools won’t take place until Stage 5.

Most institutions of higher education nationwide expect to offer classes in the fall, many on campus, though some anticipate they may need to continue remote classes online at least until second semester starts in January 2021.

For instance, James Willey, chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College’s Anderson campus, said officials there are cautiously considering a variety of plans that would help bring students back to its campuses.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels caused a furor April 21 when he published a letter saying officials there also planned to offer in-person classes, including at the Purdue Polytechnic Anderson campus, by August. He said there were “sound reasons for these steps” and that reopening was possible because the students served are at less risk of complications from COVID-19 even if they were to become ill.

“At least 80% of our population is made up of young people, say, 35 and under. All data to date tell us that the COVID-19 virus, while it transmits rapidly in this age group, poses close to zero lethal threat to them,” he said. “Meanwhile, the virus has proven to be a serious danger to other, older demographic groups, especially those with underlying health problems. The roughly 20% of our Purdue community who are over 35 years old contains a significant number of people with diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and other ailments which together comprise a very high percentage of the fatal and most severe COVID-19 cases.”

While Daniels has committed to keep these age groups separate, many have pointed out that would be impossible because much of the faculty and staff is older and, therefore, at risk.

Pistole, however, took a more measured approach, saying he is following the lead of Gov. Holcomb. In the meantime, the university is moving forward under the assumption that in-person classes will resume.

“There’s a whole host of options that we’re looking at,” he said. “We can practice social distancing in a very intentional way. As a very small school we have very few large lecture classes.”

Dorm living also can present challenges, Pistole said. That’s why the university will look at offering more single-occupant rooms at higher prices.

“For some students and their parents, they may prefer that,” he said.

The reopening of the campus also includes resuming athletics, Pistole said in his message to students.

“Our athletes add incredibly to the AU experience, in their sport, the classroom, and as part of the campus community. We can’t wait for the opportunity to cheer them on again!” he said.
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