Gov. Ricketts Conference Highlights Back-to-School Plans for State and Private Colleges and Universities

LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts hosted leaders of Nebraska’s state colleges and independent institutions of higher education to discuss plans for the safe return of students to campuses this fall.

Dr. Paul Turman, Chancellor of the Nebraska State College System, overviewed the protocols in place at Chadron State, Peru State, and Wayne State. Dr. Darrin Good, President of Nebraska Wesleyan University, spoke on behalf of the 13 member institutions of the Council of Independent Nebraska Colleges Foundation to provide details on their approach to safely resuming in-class instruction.

 

Governor Ricketts Statements On Back-to-School

The Nebraska State College System, and our private colleges and universities, have been actively preparing to welcome students to campus for the fall semester.

They have taken a number of steps to mitigate the risk of coronavirus to students, faculty, and staff including

  • Physically distancing classrooms and re-arranging other physical spaces to allow for more room between persons.
  • Adopting screening protocols to detect symptomatic individuals.
  • Making PPE readily available and ensuring their academic community has timely access to testing.
  • Designing multiple learning pathways to provide flexibility for how instruction takes place.

As you can imagine, these preparations have required a great deal of research, thought, and time.

Colleges and universities have also stepped up communications efforts to convey their coronavirus guidelines to students, parents, teachers, faculty, coaches, administrators, and others.

Thank you to our state colleges and private institutions of higher education for working diligently to keep campuses as safe as possible.

 

Dr. Paul Turman Statements On Back-to-School

In June, Nebraska state colleges notified students that we would be proceeding with in-person classes in the fall of 2020.

  • We’ve compressed our academic calendar to limit the number of contact days and interactions students and faculty will have.
  • All of our classes designated as “in-person” when students registered in the spring will take place in that fashion this fall.
  • We’ve asked all faculty to take attendance so that we can make connections to ensure the health of students who’ve been absent.
  • We’re not going to penalize students for missing class. We want them to know they can isolate and avoid social interaction if they have symptoms.

We’ve had a very small number of students who have requested to continue their studies online; in some cases, as few as 5-10 students on an entire campus.  That’s a testament to students’ desire to come back to class.

Overall, I’m extremely optimistic—as are our college presidents—that we’re going to do the right things, put students in a safe environment, and have a very successful fall semester.

 

Dr. Darrin Good Statements On Back-to-School

Nebraska’s independent colleges and universities serve 35,000 students and over 30% of the bachelor’s degrees earned in Nebraska are given out by one of our 13 institutions.

As private colleges and universities, we’ve come together and worked in unity to address issues related to the pandemic. Local health departments have been incredibly generous with their time in advising our institutions.

The Council of Independent Nebraska Colleges focuses on giving personalized attention to our students.  We have much smaller class sizes, on average than larger institutions. Having face-to-face classes and on-campus experiences are absolutely essential for us.

  • Our campuses have put temperature screening in place, and we’re working closely with local health departments to ensure access to testing.
  • Many of our institutions are also receiving Test Nebraska test kits to implement testing on our own campuses.
  • We’ve found ways to distance students in the classroom, we’re primed to conduct testing, and we have spaces on campus where students can quarantine or isolate if needed.
  • The percentage of students who participate in athletics is much higher at our schools than at larger universities. We’re partnering with athletic conferences and national associations to adopt best practices for our sports teams.

Our campuses are enriched by the communities in which they’re located.  Not only do we feel it’s essential to protect our students, faculty, and staff, but we take our responsibility to protect our community very seriously as well.

 

Gov. Ricketts Statements On Coronavirus Testing

All Nebraskans are now eligible for testing through Test Nebraska. Overall, over 302,000 Nebraskans have been tested for coronavirus and Test Nebraska has delivered over 140,000 test results.

Ricketts encourages Nebraskans to sign up, take the COVID-19 assessment, and schedule a time to get tested.

The full video of today’s briefing is available by clicking here.

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