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University of Tampa classes start, officials put many safety precautions in place

Posted at 7:15 AM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 17:27:27-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Wednesday is the first day of the fall semester at the University of Tampa.

Employees say they’ve been working hard over the summer to get the campus ready for students.

UT says students should expect changes. The college experience is definitely altered by COVID-19.

“Recognizing this is a different environment that they’re coming back to. We’re equally committed to their robust educational experience but their health and safety is our top priority,” said Stephanie Russell Krebs, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.

Many things will be different from the way students eat in the dining hall to how they sit in their classrooms, and most campus events will be virtual.

“I think what I’m disappointed about is we don’t have the freshman experience of meeting new people just on a normal basis," said Aparicio Gallagher, UT freshman.

School officials say there will also be signs telling people to wear masks, directing where students walk and occupancy limit signs on different spaces.

Officials say they will also have a zero-tolerance on risky behavior.

A large gathering in a dorm got some students suspended before classes even started.

“That scares me a little bit. Obviously I’ll try and stay away from those people. It’s hard if you don’t know who it is," said Gallagher.

Currently, UT is only offering an online-only class option for students if they have a medical condition.

“Right now students can apply for an accommodation in remote learning that’s medical in nature. So they would need to submit medical documentation to go through that process,” said Krebs.

For everyone else, leaders say they’re focused on safety and created a mix of in-person and hybrid courses based on the ability to physically distance.

“As of right now, that’s the direction that we’re headed in. We’re really committed to our students having a face to face component to their courses,” said Krebs.

Students and staff will be required to do daily self-screening for COVID-19.

UT has installed hands-free temperature checks kiosks around campus.

Leaders say they have a plan in place for any potential COVID-19 cases.

UT has a health center on campus so students can be quickly diagnosed. It’s run by Tampa General Hospital employees.

The school also hired a contact tracing company to help with any potential cases.

“We hired a professional contact tracing company because we really think that moving quickly when you’re in a dense collegiate environment is key to stopping the spread so students would immediately be in touch with a contact tracer,” said Krebs.

Officials say students would move into an isolation space.

The school set aside an area where students can safety quarantine.

“Where we would deliver their food, they would take their courses remotely. Our contact tracers and our medical professionals would check in with them regularly,” said Krebs.

“Everything feels very safe. I feel safe walking around my class this morning. There were only 15 people so they split the class in half. Half goes one day. Half goes the other day," said Amelia Brissette, UT freshman.

Classes on campus will end at the Thanksgiving break and all final exams will be taken remotely.