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PSU moves reopening date to July 20 amid COVID spikes

Amid surging cases of COVID-19 in locations as close as Joplin, Pittsburg State announced that the university’s date of reopening campus buildings and facilities would move from July 7 to July 20. 

The announcement came on Friday, June 26, a day after the university also announced that all persons on campus would be required to wear face masks or coverings while on campus. This ruling includes all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to campus with minor exemptions in specific situations. 

“Given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Crawford County, we feel we must do our part to keep our community safe by limiting contact and gatherings,” said PSU President Steve Scott according to a press release by the PSU marketing and communication department. “As we’ve said from the beginning, the health and safety of our campus community is our highest priority… We continue to prepare for a full reopening of our campus, and to carefully monitor the situation and assess needs, making adjustments as we go. Our goal is not only to open, but to stay open until we dismiss students for fall break and online completion of the semester on Nov. 20.” 

The university had previously announced their plan for the fall amid the Coronavirus pandemic, including the change in the academic calendar. Students in the fall should expect to end on-campus studies after Thanksgiving Break and perform the rest of the semester online. Additionally, Fall Break has been removed from the schedule to accommodate this change in class delivery. 

Before the date push to July 20, the various colleges on campus had formed response-based advisory task forces to aid in the transition. The committees feature voices of students, administrators, and faculty members including Stella Hastings, professor of music and committeeperson on the taskforce for the College of Arts and Sciences. 

“Each committee… meets to discuss experiences and often, the reopening,” Hastings said. “One of things I did was create a survey and sent it out to all music faculty and administrators… asking some basic questions such as ‘What are your concerns about returning…?’ and ‘What are your concerns about in-person instruction?’… The concerns primarily focused on the lack of custodial staff…” 

Hastings also added that for musicians, measures to reopen safely for the fall semester include many varied concerns. 

“(One concern) involves playing instruments that involve the mouth,” Hastings said. “That was even before the research about microdroplets. They now are saying that the microdroplets… can stay in the air for 25 to 30 minutes… There’s a lot to consider.” 

Despite the push to July 20, university offices are still open for services, but students must either call or email instead of visiting buildings in person. As of now, Pitt State plans to hold some in-person classes for the fall with adjustments made for social distancing and virus prevention. 

“It seems to me that the President’s Council is moving forward in response to the almost every-other-day adjustments about what needs to happen,” Hastings said. “… (The council) is being cautious, yet proactive with the insistence that mask be worn not only indoors but also outdoors… From that perspective, it puts the emphasis on caution over dollars. If I were the parent of an incoming student or a current student, that would say to me that special attention is being paid to the facts and also to the necessity…” 

The taskforces behind decisions, both campus wide and department specific, comment and advise on matters such as socially distanced classrooms, options for distance in residence halls, how events that feature large groups of people will operate, and methods of instruction. 

“Pitt State is committed to the health and safety of not only our campus but our entire community,” Scott said. 

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