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Face-to-face classes are suspended through the summer terms at all University of Arkansas System universities and colleges -- with some course exceptions to be considered -- after a vote Wednesday by the system's board of trustees.

Colleges and universities have switched to online-only classes in response to the coronavirus outbreak. But at least two community colleges are preparing to restart face-to-face technical courses in May.

The UA System board of trustees, in a videoconference, approved a resolution affecting summer courses that cites "the need for continued social distancing across the University of Arkansas System to help slow the spread of the covid-19 virus."

The resolution states that "any exception" to the suspension of face-to-face courses this summer must be approved by UA System President Donald Bobbitt "and must involve social distancing measures" set forth by the state Department of Health.

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Bobbitt told trustees that technical courses, such as welding, "can be delivered safely, it has been determined, with a limited number of students at any one time in the laboratory setting."

As for extending the suspension of in-person classes through the summer, Bobbitt described a need to think about the fall term.

"If we were to open up the dorms for even a late summer term and have some sort of outbreak on that particular campus, it could very much compromise our ability to offer face-to-face classes in the fall again, if allowed," Bobbitt said.

UA-Fayetteville Chancellor Joe Steinmetz on Wednesday in a message to the campus said that summer courses for the Fayetteville campus through Aug. 3 will follow the same grading policy put in place for the school's spring semester.

The revised policy allows students to opt for a form of pass/credit grading after seeing their letter grades in a course, so that a course may count toward degree progress but not affect a student's grade-point average.

The University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College has a "target return date" of May 1 for students in spring classes who "need to complete hands-on lab curriculum," a college spokesman, Tim Jones, said in an email.

"That's obviously subject to change if the governor or the UA System declares that more restrictions are necessary, but we have a plan in place and we're moving forward with it unless concerns for public health dictate a change," Jones said.

In a statement, the college's provost, Marla Strecker, listed safety steps to be taken: "Health screenings before entry into the instructional facilities; deep cleaning after each session; limited occupancy of each instructional session to adhere to recommended guidelines; fewer than 10 individuals; spacing between learning stations."

Steve Cole, chancellor of Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas, described a similar plan in a phone interview.

"On May 1, we plan on bringing back our technical students in very small groups," Cole said.

He estimated that between 150 and 200 students will resume instruction in various disciplines, including industrial maintenance.

Cole said the college is getting "proper guidance" from community health leaders. For any summer courses, he would follow guidance from health authorities and seek permission from the UA System for any face-to-face technical instruction, he said.

A Section on 04/09/2020

Print Headline: Online-only classes in UA System set through summer

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