UH announces plans to resume in-person instruction in August across its 10 campuses

Published: May. 5, 2020 at 6:22 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii plans to resume in-person classes across its 10-campus system on August 24, with the start of the fall semester, but stressed that it won’t be “business as usual.”

Hawaii Pacific and Chaminade universities also announced plans Monday to resume in-person instruction come fall.

“There is still great uncertainty, but plans for the state are now taking shape and we have ourselves learned much over the last two months," said UH President David Lassner.

[Read the full message from Lassner to UH faculty, staff and students by clicking here.]

"Now, more than ever, the people of Hawaii need the opportunity to affordably engage in higher education to advance their careers and their lives.”

UH students started remote learning after their return from spring break in March.

“If they were going to do another online semester, I was planning on taking the semester off and going back home to California and applying to schools there because I felt like I wasn’t learning very much doing online classes,” said Brooke Fisher, a junior at UH Manoa.

The university said when students return, social distancing restrictions will be in place.

"I don't know how it's going to work out if there's going to be distancing. I'm hoping that the classes aren't going to be even more competitive for the ones that aren't hybrid," said Nathan Bek, a sophomore at UH Manoa.

Lassner said that returning mainland, international and even inter-island students may have to complete a mandatory quarantine before going to in-person classes.

The current plan calls for:

  • Preparing for greater use of online resources and some classes shifting to hybrid models;
  • Configuring classrooms, labs and other shared areas to ensure people are separated by at least 6 feet;
  • Ensuring that those on campuses have access to hand washing areas;
  • Setting up protocols to test, contact trace and quarantine as needed.

“As challenging as it is right now, we must also plan for the future,” Lassner said, in a memo to students, faculty and staff. “Plans for safe in-person instruction will include review of and any necessary physical reconfiguration of classrooms, labs, common areas and workspaces to support safe distances between people.”

The announcement comes as the state seeks a “phased-in” approach to reopening the economy.

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Hawaii has one of the nation’s lowest COVID-19 infection rates, but there are concerns about the potential for a second wave of illness. Officials have said that even as the economy restarts, residents should prepare for a “new normal” of wearing masks in public and keeping a distance of 6 feet from others whenever possible.

Hawaii Pacific University said in the fall it will dial up health screenings and sanitization protocols. Classrooms are being reconfigured and the dorms will likely have less density.

“We will follow all state and local directives, and with the slow and steady return to a more normal life that we are all starting to see, and with Hawaii’s status as the safest and healthiest state, we are looking forward to welcoming students to campus with a big Aloha in the fall,” President John Gotanda said, in a news release.

HPU has also expanded its Holomua Commitment program for tuition assistance to all Hawaii residents who want to transfer to the university.

“We want to make HPU an affordable experience so we will meet your unmet tuition need, and if it’s greater now because of COVID-19, then we will help meet that,” said Gotanda.

Chaminade President Lynn Babington announced similar plans, adding that the university’s smaller campus footprint makes it easier to “provide a classroom experience while maintaining social distancing guidelines.”

The planned return of Hawaii’s university students comes as public schools and private secondary schools are also considering how and when they’ll reopen campuses.

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