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Delaware State University announces Fall 2020 Re-opening Plans

Safety strategy includes regular testing, hybrid in-person and digital learning 

Dover, DE – Delaware State University will return safely to residential operations for the Fall 2020 semester under a comprehensive strategy that includes regular COVID-19 testing, social distancing, and hybrid in-person and virtual instruction.  

The pioneering plan announced today by President Tony Allen will ensure that students, faculty and staff can return for the normal start of classes August 25.  The University is being advised on the plan by Testing For America, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help reopen schools and businesses through mass access to accurate, affordable, and rapid testing.

“The key to safe University operations in the ‘new normal’ is robust testing, contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine,” Allen said. “That’s why we are so pleased to have Testing for America as our advisor. As the University develops toward a weekly COVID-19 testing capacity, we will have the unique ability to test our entire campus community throughout the semester.”

TFA’s volunteer members, who are leaders across healthcare, science and business, have been working closely with the University on the Dover campus for the past week helping to formalize testing plans while university officials worked out final details of instructional changes, social distancing policies, disinfection regimes, and safe occupation capacities in residence halls.

 “Bringing students back to campus and reopening universities across the nation is a highly critical milestone for society. TFA is delighted to advise Delaware State University and its leadership team on its pioneering effort to get students back to campus,” said TFA’s Dr. Joan Coker, an Otolaryngologist at Christiana Care, who is a Tuskegee University alumna, and had her surgical internship at Howard University Hospital, with a residency at The Martin Luther King/Charles Drew Residency program.

The University’s partnership with TFA was facilitated in part via New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer contributing $100,000 in CARES Act funding to the initiative.

A handful of Aviation majors will be the first students to come back to Dover. They return this week to catch up on flight time they lost during the last half of Spring Semester. This group will help pilot the university’s testing process, while also operating under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for COVID-19 safety in the cockpit.  

The return of the first student-athletes to campus about two weeks later will allow the university’s testing program to ramp up capacity in stages before the majority of students are scheduled to arrive in late August. From that point onward, regular COVID-19 testing will begin, with a protocol based on risk and prevalence. The University expects about 3,000 employees and students to be on campus in any given week.

LaKresha Moultrie, who has headed the University’s COVID-19 Task Force since early March, said the plan is the result of a total team effort. “The return in Fall represents a campus-wide rethinking of our entire operation for the long term,” she said, emphasizing that the campus will look and feel different.

Faculty, staff, students, and all visitors will complete a daily health screening, and will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing. The number of people in public areas will be monitored, hand sanitizer will be available nearly everywhere, and cleaning of public areas will occur more frequently than prior to the pandemic

Residence halls will be inhabited at lower density for safety. Vice President for Student Affairs Stacy Downing projects about 75% of our residential bed capacity will be in use, with a significant number of rooms set aside for quarantining students who test positive. Most international students will be taking their courses virtually due to travel restrictions.

In terms of classes, the University has taken full advantage of its existing partnership with Apple to develop a hybrid delivery system that functions both for students on campus or taking courses remotely, said Provost Saundra DeLauder. “When students do attend classes in person, they will be in classrooms set up for social distancing, with the class sizes limited.”

President Allen emphasized that safety measures are not solely focused on students, and accommodations will be made for employees in high-risk categories to continue to work from home. “We are a community that includes about 750 full-time employees,” he said. “Their health and safety are dear to us. We are leveraging what we have learned about our capacity for remote, paperless working over the past four months in a thoughtful way to create safe working environments.”

Miss Delaware State University, Ashlee Davis, a Senior Mass Communications and Law Studies Major, agreed: “We all want to return to campus, but we want to do it safely. We’re up for the challenge.”

Delaware State University formally announced the Fall 2020 Re-opening Plan to the campus community at its weekly Webex University Forum on the morning of July 7.