Miami and coronavirus: Earlier start for classes, dismiss before Thanksgiving

The coronavirus will force Miami University classes this fall to start early, finish early and look like no other semester in the school’s history in between.

Miami officials recently announced the return to in-person classes, which were shut down in March in favor of remote-learning, in August.

But when classes reopen, they will include varying degrees of social distancing for students and staff, wearing of protective masks for many and aggressive health monitoring not previously seen on Miami’s main Oxford campus or at any of its regional schools in Butler County.

It’s all part of the latest major changes to hit the university, which has already gone through a tumultuous time.

Classes will open one week earlier, on Aug. 17, than previously scheduled. Details for all school operations are still being determined.

“We expect that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future and are planning accordingly,” Miami officials said in a statement.

Like other universities and K-12 schools ordered shuttered by Ohio officials in March, Miami has undergone historic changes.

Unlike past practices, classes this year will be completed for the fall semester before the Thanksgiving holiday break to lessen the chances of students returning to campuses with potential coronavirus infections through contact during time spent at home with families and friends.

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The altered schedule, said Miami officials, will eliminate “the need for students to return to complete the semester. Following Thanksgiving, all final examinations will be completed remotely. On campus accommodations will be made for those students in the residence halls who cannot depart.”

Officials responded to state health officials concerns in March in ordering all remaining learning for its undergraduate and graduate students would be conducted via remote, digital learning through the remainder of the final semester and summer classes of the 2019-20 school year.

Thousands of students were ordered to move out of residence halls at the Oxford campus by the end of March. In April, the school refunded $27 million in student fees to students.

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When classes resume to start the 2020-21 school year, it won’t be business as usual - at least for the first portion of the school year - and students and teachers should be prepared for a different college experience, said officials.

“While our primary emphasis will always be on in-person, personal interaction, we must be creative and adaptable to meet public health measures such as face-coverings and physical distancing requirements. We will selectively employ high quality, evidence-based hybrid approaches where needed, particularly to accommodate students who may need to self-isolate, and those whose health conditions prevent a return to the classroom,” said officials.

“In some cases, we may need to have courses online due to social distancing and space limitations.”

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In recent weeks the university has formed an advisory committee on the school’s re-opening composed of more than three dozen school officials, professors, students, Oxford city, county and private medical center health officials. The committee’s work is ongoing and expansive.

“We continue to work with local public health officials and follow the guidance and directives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Governor Mike DeWine, and the Ohio Department of Health to safeguard the health of students, faculty, staff and visitors to our campuses,” said officials.

Included among the off-campus advisors is Jennifer Bailer, Butler County health commissioner.

Miami enrolls more than 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students and is the county’s largest employer.

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