Inslee releases plan to restart higher education in the fall

Gov. Jay Inslee was joined Wednesday by presidents of Washington colleges and universities to unveil the guidance for reopening in-person instruction at higher education institutions in the fall.

The announcement comes with a proclamation providing specific health guidance for four-year public and private institutions, as well as two-year community and technical colleges, apprenticeships and private career schools.

“Each campus is different — varying in size, location, mission, and academic programs. But everywhere, students and educators are clearly ready to get back to campus both to learn and to enjoy this unique period in their lives,” Inslee said during a press conference Wednesday. “However, we must acknowledge the need for equitable student outcomes under these circumstances and that student health must be paramount.”

Included in the health guidance are requirements already in place across much of the state. Masks, limits on class size, symptom monitoring, personal protective equipment availability and approval from local health districts. These requirements are in addition, not a substitute for, health requirements already in place.

Understanding that not every campus is the same, each institution will develop and implement its own Safe Back-to-School Plan. Higher education institutions have been working with their local health jurisdictions throughout this pandemic, and that is expected to continue.

These plans must include several key considerations, such as limiting shared equipment, and tracking and tracing the spread of the virus. There are also protocols for key functions, including:

  • Capacity limits on foods services and restricting cash payments;
  • Floor markings on transportation for social distancing;
  • Staggered schedules for shared areas in campus residences such as bathrooms;
  • Limiting the number of visitors on campus;
  • And health measures to protect employees.

The guidance and requirements go into effect Aug. 1, before the start of the 2020–2021 school year.

“No matter what happens with the spread of this virus, students, faculty and staff should know a return to campus in the fall won’t be like business as usual,” Inslee said.

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