FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Students and staff are back on campus at the University of Arkansas for yet another school year in the midst of a pandemic.
The University of Arkansas welcomed students back to class on Monday and photos of large group events are already circulating on social media. Some of which showing students not socially distancing are causing concern.
Manager of University Communitications, John Thomas says they are going to continue to educate its students on the best practices, promote testing and vaccinations so they are able to continue their school year safely in-person.
The university will get its final enrollment numbers within the next few weeks but is expecting about 29,000 students this fall.
Thomas says social distancing will not be possible in most classes, and that is why masks are required in all classroom settings and all indoor buildings on campus. There are a few exceptions like when eating in the dining hall.
The university is back to having in-person events and while face-coverings are not required outdoors they are encouraged when social distancing is not possible.
Thomas says ultimately they want to be able to provide students as normal of a college experience as possible but are ready to make any adjustments needed to keep their students and staff safe.
“We are excited about the events we are allowed to have this semester and that people can take part in everything… But we are prepared for anything that happens down the road, in case things change and we have to pivot anything then we are ready to because we had to do it a year ago,” said Thomas.
He says teachers have all of the technology and tools to pivot to virtual learning if needed.
He adds that any incidents where students or staff are not following safety guidelines or where there are general safety concerns should be reported to the conduct office.
Thomas says it will take a community effort but there are ways to continue its normal campus operations if safety guidelines are closely followed by students and staff.
He adds its COVID-19 response team is closely monitoring the COVID-19 cases on campus and within the community.
Moreover, he is urging those who get tested off-campus to self-report positive results.
Students and staff have access to vaccinations and testing at the Pat Walker Health Center on campus.All they have to do is schedule an appointment.
However, if someone decides to get tested at a facility off-campus Thomas says it is very important that if that individual tests positive for the coronavirus, they properly report it.
“It’s really helpful for us to know if there is a percentage if they are coming from a certain area… Whether it is a certain building or a certain dorm or a certain part of campus that is seeing a higher number of cases than others, that is where that self-reporting really comes in hands for us,” said Thomas.
He adds those numbers help the university have the most accurate COVID-19 numbers for its campus, help identify potential outbreaks and allows the response team to make the best safety decisions for the school community.
The contact tracing is done by the Arkansas Department of Health.