Capital University will resume classes with distance learning

CHRIS BOURNEA
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ThisWeek group

Like many schools and institutions of higher learning throughout the nation, Capital University will open its 2020-21 academic year Monday, Aug. 24, with full distance learning because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, said Dave Kaufman, Capital's interim president.

In making the decision to offer virtual instruction until at least Sept. 21 at the main Bexley campus of Capital and Trinity Lutheran Seminary and the Capital Law School in downtown Columbus, Kaufman said, he and the university's board of trustees monitored the coronavirus cases throughout Franklin County and Ohio.

"We look at new COVID cases and the percentage of tests that are positive," he said. "What we want to have is at least favorable trends that we're comfortable with, and we're just not there right now. We've got students coming in from all 88 counties, so we're looking at trends across Ohio."

Capital is following Franklin County Public Health guidelines to offer a phased-in approach to the academic year, Kaufman said. The phases are as follows, according to the reopening plan posted to the university's website, capital.edu:

* Phase 1: Essential employees will continue to work on campus; all other employees will work remotely. Students who continue as essential workers may be on campus. Students for whom Capital is their primary residence may obtain permission from the university to remain on campus.

* Phase 2: Additional employees return to on-campus work as restrictions are eased. Essential student workers and student workers in reopening areas may be on campus.

* Phase 3: Employees in additional university functions will begin to return to on-campus work. Some remote work will continue. Students will begin to transition back to campus.

* Phase 4: Standard employee operations will resume; some remote work, alternate scheduling will continue. Employees with vulnerable conditions will work with human resources to request accommodations. The remainder of students will return to campus with reduced capacity in residence halls and in classroom spaces in adherence with state and public-health guidelines.

Moving to each phase will depend on the number of coronavirus cases locally and statewide, and throughout all phases, employees and students who report to campus will be required to wear face coverings and maintain 6 feet of social distance, Kaufman said.

"We're managing the density," he said. "Right now we have roughly 100 kids on campus that we provide pretty much permanent housing to. Then the research assistants, we're bringing them in next. The remaining students will be phased in."

The university will not permit university-related or international travel, including study-abroad programs. Nonessential university-related domestic travel also has been suspended, including recruiting and athletics travel. Athletics competitions have been suspended, but training and use of campus workout facilities will be permitted with state, local and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines under Capital's plan.

"All the fall sports have been postponed to spring," Kaufman said. "We're looking at engagement activities with the athletes."

Music programs and other extracurricular activities will be permitted, with safety precautions in place, Kaufman said. Students may opt to complete the entire academic year virtually, and instructors have undergone professional development over the summer to enhance online learning, he said.

"We hope that the virtual or online experience will be as good or even better than in person," he said.

For more information on Capital's reopening plan, go to capital.edu.

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