Texas A&M University-San Antonio and St. Mary’s University officials announced plans to reopen campus this fall with contingencies in place should the impact of the coronavirus prevent normal operations.
Both schools will form teams that will devise plans to re-open their campuses in a manner that is safe for students, teachers, and staff to return.
In a letter to staff, TAMU-SA President Cynthia Teniente-Matson described two new initiatives that will help plan for a “gradual return to on-site operations and for a fall semester for which we have no precedent.”
The first part of the initiative is the creation of a reopening task force that will be charged with reopening campus in phases for staff to work on-site beginning May 18. Essential personnel will continue to work on campus through May 15.
The task force will present its recommendations to Teniente-Matson by May 8.
The second part of the initiative is for four subcommittees to create a strategy to safely resume in-person classes and support services this fall. The subcommittees will focus on academic competitiveness, student pipeline, student success, and business continuity while balancing potential challenges for instruction and operations. TAMU-SA detailed potential contingency plans via PowerPoint on its website.
“The group is also charged with contingency planning to prepare for the possibility that public health conditions may limit our ability for in-person delivery of courses,” Teniente-Matson wrote.
St. Mary’s said in a statement that its reopening plans hinge on the trajectory of coronavirus in San Antonio and throughout Texas. The school plans to announce more detailed plans for resuming instruction and on-campus living in June.
While the TAMU-SA hopes to conduct face-to-face instruction for as many students as possible, the school might have to implement enrollment caps to enforce social distancing.
TAMU-SA also could offer blended learning with some classes beginning online and switching to in-person when conditions allow. The university is cognizant it might have to deliver all instruction online “should a massive COVID-19 resurgence occur.”
The president anticipates receiving recommendations from the subcommittees in late May and expects to announce tentative fall plans in June.
The other 10 campuses in the Texas A&M University system also are planning to reopen, according to a report from the Texas Tribune.
Higher education institutions throughout Texas and San Antonio are anticipating a financial squeeze because of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus and its lasting impacts. Enrollment projections are uncertain and university leaders are planning for the future with budget cuts in mind.
Earlier this week, St. Mary’s announced it would temporarily cut tuition rates in half for undergraduate alumni enrolling in graduate programs and for incoming freshmen and transfer students starting a summer 2020 course.
Teniente-Matson imposed a hiring and spending freeze for the remainder of fiscal year 2020 last Friday in anticipation of changes to state appropriation and enrollment revenues.
The University of Texas at San Antonio has yet to publicly address its plans for the fall.