Seton Hall’s restart plans for fall appear to be smart, safe — and perhaps model for others

Seton Hall University announced its plans for the fall semester Friday — and they appear to be a well-thought-out model that other universities should consider following in this era of COVID-19.

For starters, students have the option of on-campus or online learning. And, for those who choose to live on campus, online learning always is an option for a particular day or class.

In addition, the on-campus semester will start early (Aug. 24), eliminate fall break and end at Thanksgiving — with review sessions and final exams moving online. This will eliminate the two periods during the semester when nearly the entire student body goes home and then returns a few days later.

Most of all, if it ever becomes apparent that schools need to go to all-distance learning, each class already is being presented that way.

Joseph Nyre, who took over as school president on Aug. 1, 2019, said the solution makes sense on a number of levels in a letter to the Seton Hall community.

“It ensures in-person, reduced-density learning while offering students the option to pursue their studies entirely in a remote fashion,” he said. “Students who choose to study on campus will experience a blend of in-person and remote live instruction. This creates physical distancing for those choosing an in-person environment while accommodating students who choose the remote option for the semester.”

Nyre also the school is committed to safety standards.

“When we return to campus, the Health Intervention and Communication Team will deploy protocols to test, trace and isolate students and employees,” he said. “This work will not be easy, but we are committed to these protocols and their success.

“They will be augmented by a host of additional actions that are designed to provide maximum health and safety at Seton Hall.”

Nyre said the schedule is one of the best ways the school is reducing the chance of spreading the virus.

“It reduces cyclical risks of virus spread during colder months,” he said. “It also avoids the possibility of students, faculty and staff members traveling home for fall break and Thanksgiving, contracting the virus and returning to campus with nascent cases of COVID-19.”

Nyre said the reopening plan is driving infrastructure improvements that will allow Seton Hall to deliver safe, high-quality, in-person and remote learning.

“Work is underway to modify campus environments, including academic buildings, dining spaces and residence halls, to support physical distancing and uphold health protocols,” he said. “Residence hall rooms will reopen with reduced density and specialized cleaning procedures.”

The biggest changes will be in the classroom, where technology will be installed over the summer to support the HyFlex teaching modality that will help instructors teach both in-person and online at the same time.

More than that, Nyre acknowledged the setup will allow the school to return to all remote learning at a moment’s notice.

Most of all, Nyre said the plans helps the school prepare for any scenario.

“Though we are excited and confident about the upcoming semester, we are equally aware that an unexpected, severe outbreak of COVID-19 remains a possibility,” he said “For this, we will remain ever vigilant, and continue our comprehensive planning efforts so that Seton Hall is prepared for whatever the coronavirus throws at us.”

A look at the schedule:

  • Monday, Aug. 24: Classes begin. Instruction will continue through the semester without a fall break.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 24: Classes conclude. Students depart for Thanksgiving break and will not return to campus for the remainder of the semester.
  • Monday, Nov. 30: Review sessions, reading days and final exams will be administered remotely over the next two weeks.

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