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Texas A&M University San Antonio, still largely a commuter campus, will not change its academic calendar this fall, Vice President and Provost Mike O’Brien said.
Nationwide, colleges and universities are announcing drastic changes to what school will look like in the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Two weeks ago, Texas A&M System regents released reopening guidelines for its 11 campuses but said the details would be decided by individual university leaders.
About 70 percent of courses will be offered online and classes will be staggered to try to limit the daily number of students and faculty on campus, O’Brien said.
“What we’ve done is design a way to offer classes on campus as well as virtually,” O’Brien said. “About 30 percent of our section courses will be offered face-to-face.”
Students at the University of Texas at Austin and St. Mary’s University will not return after Thanksgiving, with St. Mary’s scheduling final exams before the holiday, those schools have announced.
But A&M San Antonio officials don’t anticipate many of their 6,700 students will travel far for Thanksgiving because most of them live in or near San Antonio and commute to campus, O’Brien said.
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The one dormitory building at A&M San Antonio houses about 365 students. Systemwide, campuses with residence halls are to set aside spaces where students can quarantine if they come in contact with someone infected with the virus.
Federal stimulus money the university received will pay for cameras installed in classrooms so more students can remain home and watch the class online. The cameras will follow instructors as they move around the classroom.
The funds also will cover faculty training on using virtual tools so online options are more effective. In March, schools were quick to move classes online as COVID-19 spread in the community. All courses are being designed for another move to online should a second wave of COVID-19 cases occur, system leaders said.
On ExpressNews.com: Texas A&M University System releases guidelines for re-opening campuses
University leaders do not anticipate longer weekday class schedules or adding classes on weekends, O’Brien said.
Freshmen will select courses from two four-course blocks of 50-minute classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 75-minute classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those groups of freshmen will remain in the same classroom together for all four courses to reduce overall exposure to COVID-19.
Class sizes will be smaller in the fall and will be spaced to adhere to social distancing guidelines, O’Brien said.
“We really targeted first-time college students and freshmen. If you don’t hook freshmen by about the third week, there’s a very good chance you’re going to lose them and we certainly don’t want that,” he said.
Krista Torralva covers several school districts and public universities in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. To read more from Krista, become a subscriber. Krista.Torralva@express-news.net | Twitter: @KMTorralva