The University of Hawaii announced plans today to resume in-person instruction at all 10 of its campuses this fall, using what President David Lassner called a “COVID-19 aware safe approach.”
Hawaii Pacific University and Chaminade University made similar announcements, saying they will welcome students back for the fall 2020 semester for in-person classes with some modifications.
“This will not be business as usual,” Lassner said at a press conference hosted by Gov. David Ige. “Rather we will be implementing in-person instruction in our classrooms, our labs, perhaps even outdoors on our campus, and it will be done in a safe manner.”
The university intends to use both on-campus and online instruction when the fall semester starts on Aug. 24 and will take steps to ensure hygiene and social distancing as needed, Lassner said. It is reviewing its facilities and may reconfigure classrooms, labs and other work spaces to space people six feet apart.
Hawaii Pacific University is also slated to start in-person classes at its downtown campus on Aug. 24, assuming state and city governments permit that, according to President John Gotanda. Plans include social distancing, health screenings and enhanced sanitation, he said.
“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,” Gotanda said.
Chaminade University President Lynn Babington said the school is planning various scenarios for classes on campus to ensure safety, including personal protective equipment.
“Chaminade has a smaller campus footprint, a smaller residential student body and smaller classes, which makes it easier to provide a classroom experience while maintaining social distancing guidelines,” she said.
She said she anticipates that some students may need more flexibility and support to pursue their studies successfully and the university will be prepared to meet those needs.
Uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many high school seniors to hold off on deciding where they will attend college. And some Hawaii residents who had been in college on the mainland are weighing whether it’s worth going back in the fall for what may be an online education.
Local universities are seizing the chance to encourage students to stay at home for college, especially since the Aloha State has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates per capita in the country.
“UH is offering a safe opportunity for higher education, an affordable opportunity for higher education on all islands,” Lassner said at the press conference.
A new UH video announcement tells viewers, “UH has a place just right for you,” whether a prospective freshman or older adult wanting to advance in a career.
All three colleges have extended their application deadlines. For UH, the new deadline is Aug. 1. Traditionally, May 1 was the deadline for students to commit to UH Manoa and most universities in the country.
“We’ve been getting a lot of interest from families who were thinking of sending their kids to the mainland,” UH spokesman Daniel Meisenzahl said.
HPU is offering Hawaii students more financial aid. Its “Holomua Commitment” for local first-time students, which covers “100% of unmet tuition needs” is now being offered as well to Hawaii students who want to transfer to the private university.
“[W]e want to provide this extra encouragement to students who are facing doubts and concerns about heading back to the mainland this fall—you’ve got a place in the HPU Ohana, and you can have the private university experience at a cost that’s like most public universities,” Gotanda said.
Lassner said that students coming from outside of Hawaii to UH will need to follow any state quarantine requirements, and the university will make appropriate arrangements.
Dormitories on the Manoa and Hilo campuses will reopen “for those students who really need a safe place to live while they learn,” he said.
He said the university will use more online instruction or hybrid approaches to education. For a large lecture class, for example, the lecture may be online while “the interactive portion may be conducted in person in a COVID-aware, safe manner.”
UH switched to online learning after spring break, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be prepared to revert to fully online instruction if cases surge on an island, and will use lessons learned from the spring semester to enhance that education, Lassner said. A “technology safety net” for students, for example, could include loaner laptops and broadband access.
No decisions have yet been made on UH sports, which must be done in concert with athletic conferences in any case, he said.
“We’re not there yet with a plan for intercollegiate athletics just yet,” Lassner said. “It’s complicated for student athletes, it’s complicated for fans.”