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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is putting its plans for the safe resumption of on-campus courses and operational functions this fall at users’ fingertips.

A website launched Monday. It houses information UL Lafayette personnel and students will need to know about sanitation, protective equipment and other measures to ensure their safety as they return to campus over the next few months.

The site will also feature answers to user-submitted questions. It will be updated regularly as information becomes available, said Dr. Jaimie Hebert, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “Communication is critical to assuring our University family that campus will be safe and ready for their return.”

Hebert chairs the Ragin’ Cajun Resiliency Plan Task Force. It is a group of administrators, faculty, staff members and students who have created a framework that will guide the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic through the beginning of next year.

The framework is available on the website, as are guidelines from the University’s Office of Human Resources on procedures to help employees resume on-campus work.

University President Dr. Joseph Savoie established the task force in early May. He said its objective “is to ensure that when we resume on-campus operations and course instruction in the fall that returning students, faculty and staff can focus on teaching, learning, research and work without fear.”

“Every decision the University has made in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 over the past several months was to protect the health, safety and success of our University family – and that will remain our primary motivation in the months ahead,” Savoie said.

The task force’s plan describes a three-phase approach for the return of students and employees to campus this fall. The committee identified six areas of focus: student life and experiences; faculty and staff support; teaching and research; campus operations; finance; and communications.

Subcommittees have been appointed to identify, assess and address possible health risks in each of these areas to ensure a safe return to on-campus learning and work. Members will examine classroom sizes, course schedules, student housing and dining, and transportation, among other areas, Hebert said. 

“The University is like a small city. And like any community that has had to confront the challenges of COVID-19, there are many issues to explore and decisions to be made. But the task force’s work and that of the subcommittees will be thorough and will be guided by one motivation alone: the safety of our community.”

UL Lafayette transitioned to telework for most business operations and remote course delivery in March. Remote delivery will continue for most courses during the summer semester when it begins on June 8.

Also beginning on June 8: the first of three phases in which the University sets benchmarks for the safe resumption of on-campus courses and business operations in the fall.

A two-week review period will take place between each phase. Before the University transitions from one phase to the next, certain health milestones must be met. Those targets are based on guidelines established by local and state health officials.

During Phase 1, remote business operations and course delivery will continue and ways to reinforce social distancing in classrooms, residence halls, offices and other shared spaces will be identified.

Faculty and staff members involved with critical infrastructure, health care and research support will begin returning to campus during Phase 1, said Paul Thomas, the University’s chief human resources officer. He is chairing the task force alongside Hebert.

Thomas also heads UL Lafayette’s Office of Human Resources, which has issued guidance for employee safety as they resume on-campus work.

That document, “The Roadmap to Resiliency,” is available on the University website. It emphasizes safety practices such as social distancing, handwashing, wearing protective face coverings, and cleaning and sanitation, among others.

“Making these practices part of an everyday routine during Phase 1 will help ensure that we meet health and safety milestones that will enable us to enter Phase 2,” Thomas said. 

Phase 2 will begin in the fall and will include the careful resumption of on-campus course instruction and business operations. Phase 3 will begin in January 2021. 

Hebert said the task force is planning contingencies should an increase in COVID-19 cases make in-person instruction unsafe.

The University has worked in cooperation with officials from the Louisiana Department of Health throughout the COVID-19 crisis and will continue to base its decisions on the best health information available, Hebert said.

“The ideal scenario is in-person instruction for the entire fall semester. If that is not possible, we’re also working on alternate plans to continue remote instruction or for the possibility of a combination of both remote and in-person instruction,” he explained.

“We’re covering all our bases.”

Photo caption: UL Lafayette’s plans for the safe resumption of on-campus courses and operations over coming months is online, at a website launched Monday. The site has information about sanitation, protective equipment and other measures University students and personnel will need to know to ensure their safety. The site will also feature answers to user-submitted questions. Photo credit: Rachel Rafati / University of Louisiana at Lafayette

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