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A sign specifying social distancing practices stands in the University Center. Photo by Montse Soto

Plans to increase in-person classes in the fall are underway

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County released its plan to increase the number of in-person classes for the Fall 2021 semester this morning. The plan includes maintaining social distancing and mask-wearing on campus, continued symptom tracking and COVID-19 testing.

UMBC’s COVID-19 Planning Coordinating Committee, composed of 15 faculty and staff from various departments, is in charge of deciding how in-person classes will be structured next school year. The email stated they “are committed to maximizing in-person instruction within the constraints of physical distancing.” So, while students will be able to attend more classes in-person, the CDC’s six-foot social distancing recommendation will still be enforced. 

The committee is also still utilizing the “key assumptions” they developed for the 2020 Fall semester in their planning for Fall 2021.  These assumptions state that to reopen campus safely, UMBC must: 

  • Be able to test students, staff and faculty for COVID-19 upon their return to campus and during their continued visits to campus
  • Be able to contact trace after receiving a positive test result
  • Have personal protective equipment available for all students, staff and faculty
  • Be able to reduce the number of people on campus and in confined spaces
  • Give enough time for spaces to be cleaned and sanitized according to public health guidelines  

The specifics of how each class will be structured next semester will ultimately be determined by each college’s dean, UMBC’s registrar, facilities management and the Division of Information Technology. These groups will determine how feasibly and safely a class can transition back into the classroom. They will also determine what an online option for each class will look like. 

The email encouraged the UMBC community to register for a COVID-19 vaccine to increase campus safety next fall, saying “[we] believe that vaccination will have a significant effect on the amount of the COVID virus in the community.” Currently, Baltimore County is in vaccination phases 1A and 1B, meaning that only healthcare workers, first responders, teachers and those 75 years and older can get a vaccine. 

Currently, UMBC’s plan is flexible. The university is waiting to see how Maryland state vaccination numbers and rates of infection change in the coming months before making any final decisions. They plan on updating students, staff and faculty in the coming weeks.