President Schmoke is plotting a return to campus at University of Baltimore, according to remarks made during a campus-wide town hall on Thursday.
Designed to discuss feasibility of re-opening, he also addressed concerns around faculty and staff testing requirements as well as HVAC updates across various campus buildings.
President Schmoke opened the meeting with an expression of gratitude, saying “I just want to thank everybody – faculty, staff and students – for their patience first of all, and their creativity over the past few months.”
University of Baltimore, said Schmoke in prepared remarks, should be able to return to in-person learning in some capacity. “We are more confident in talking about the likely situation for the University in August than the likely situation for the University in April,” Schmoke said.
Two factors would be at play for a return to in-person learning, however: vaccination rates must remain stable and Baltimore City regulations must not impede expanded access to campus.
Resuming on-campus learning in August wouldn’t mean switching back to life before the coronavirus. There will be set priorities for different programs and courses.
Angelos Law School students would be of the highest priority in order to fulfill accreditation requirements followed by courses with a lab element and those necessary for graduation. The Angelos Law school, in the near future, will also have extended hours for students to be able to come in and study.
Additionally, a professional assessment of UB’s buildings was being conducted and included expanded testing for both air and water quality. Upon completion, the assessments would be used to complete necessary system updates.
This won’t come without a hefty price tag, notes UB chief financial officer Beth Aymot, who referred to the amount as “considerable” when pressed for additional details. Fortunately, she adds, the University has “sufficient funding set aside” from the CARES Act to cover the costs.
Schmoke and other University leaders noted additional initiatives to maintain campus safety.
Both a nurse practitioner and a “symptom tracker” will be employed to administer Covid-19 tests and check students, faculty, and staff for symptoms. Doing so, adds Schmoke, allows for the Bogomolny Library to expand their hours with a reservation system as the Campus Pantry and Career Closet relocates to that space.
An online dashboard will be available for everyone to see case numbers at the University with professors having the flexibility to switch to a virtual learning environment, if necessary.
Spring commencement will be virtual, as outdoor venues remained too cost prohibitive for the University, but President Schmoke and others remain optimistic that fall commencement could be in The Lyric auditorium.
Leadership also announced that signs and markers would be placed across the University to remind people about social distancing and mask wearing. “All of our security ambassadors are [going to be] checking people as they enter and move through the building[s],” said Vice president of capital planning and campus operations Neb Sertsu.
During the town hall, numerous participants expressed concern about how disrepaciencies in guideline adherence would be handled upon returning to campus. A community based approach, Sertsu said, will be key to ensuring that guidance is followed. “I think it’s going to be all of us sort of reminding people it’s a necessity” he continued.
“We have no hesitancy about intervening and removing that person from campus” President Schmoke added in response to participants.
Registration, due to possibly returning to in-person learning, has also been delayed to provide the University with more time to hammer out logistics, said an email sent to students on Friday.
Priority registration will begin on April 12 and general registration will not begin on April 16.
You can watch the town hall in full here.
Tony Sheaffer is editor-in-chief for The Sting.