Dear Faculty and Staff,
While 2020 has been anything but conventional, I hope this message finds you healthy and safe. Once again, I want to thank each of you for the hard work, patience, and tenacity in completing the spring semester. Although it was incredibly difficult, you rose to the challenge. Thank you.
While we had minimal time to adjust our instruction last spring, I am confident that we will be prepared for the fall semester. It will not be without challenges, and both the schedule and classroom instruction will look a little different. But the extensive planning and preparation will enable us to do our very best to fulfill our land-grant mission of education, research, and service to our state. With everyone’s support, we will do this as safely as possible.
I know that many of you have questions about the fall semester. President Young previously announced that the classes will begin three days earlier than planned – on Wednesday, August 19 – and that reading days and online/remote final exams will begin after Thanksgiving break. Below, you will find additional details about how we will operate next semester.
First, Texas A&M University will not extend classes to Saturday. The university will continue to hold classes five days a week just as we have in the past, but will teach more classes later into each day.
To reduce pedestrian traffic in buildings and classrooms, we will schedule a 30-minute “passing period” to allow students and instructors to completely clear the rooms before the next group enters. Around the noon hour each day, we will have one 45-minute passing period to allow cleaning of classrooms. While the days that instructors were scheduled to teach are not likely to change, it is likely that the class time will. At this time, we are mapping existing courses to the new time pattern. Students will not be required to re-register for their courses, but we will open registration on Monday, July 27, should they wish to make changes.
Additionally, it is likely that room assignments will change in order to accommodate social distancing and cleaning protocols. After an extensive review, we have determined that rooms will be limited to approximately 33% to 40% of normal capacity to allow for physical distancing. The university has a disproportionate number of smaller classrooms, so we have secured additional space typically used for meetings and events and will be scheduling these for instructional use.
President Young asked us to maximize the number of classes that have at least one face-to-face meeting each week with an instructor, and with the new meeting spaces, we believe almost half of our classes will be available in a face-to-face format this fall. All face-to-face classes will also be offered remotely. The other half of our classes will be offered only remotely or online. To facilitate this process, we began installing cameras, microphones, and other equipment in classrooms after the spring semester. No doubt there are many questions about how this will work; we will release more detailed information about all options near the end of this month.
As you know, Texas A&M University implemented a face covering policy effective today, Monday, June 15. An FAQ for the policy is available for your review. Additional safety measures are in progress and many more are under consideration, including testing, contact tracing, enhanced air circulation and cleaning, and the addition of plexiglass barriers, among others. Additional details will be released through the summer as these are finalized. We are working hard to enhance the safety of the campus.
Although there are additional details to work out, I hope that this information is useful as you begin to think about your plans for fall instruction. I anticipate sending additional information to you every other week this summer, with the next communication scheduled for the week of June 29th as we close in on a finalized schedule.
Carol A. Fierke
Provost and Executive Vice President