JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Students in Mississippi are scheduled to return to school in August amid rising cases of COVID-19 in the state, but campus life will be a lot different than what many are used to.
At Mississippi State, temperature check-in kiosks will be scattered around campus. Students who live in dorms will be required to log their temperature every 24 hours and fill out a health questionnaire. Employees and day students will be required to check temperatures at home and take a screening survey before arriving on campus.
At Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi, all members of the community will be required to wear masks inside and out of the classroom, where class sizes will be reduced by 50%.
“While we remain focused on preserving the on-campus experience, COVID-19 has forced us to rethink everything we do,” University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn F. Boyce said in a letter to the campus community in late June.
New cases of the disease caused by the new coronavirus and numbers of hospitalizations are still rising in Mississippi. On Friday, the state reported 1,031 new cases — one of its single highest increases.
On June 15, the Mississippi Department of Health reported 467 patients hospitalized for the virus. Just weeks later, the state reported Friday, hospitals had 711 people in hospitals with confirmed cases and 270 hospitalized with suspected cases.
In reports detailing plans for the start of the academic year released in June from Mississippi State and University of Mississippi, education officials say they want to provide as much in-person direction as possible. They said instruction will likely be a mix of online and in-person options.
“Administration does not view this as a binary choice of online or face-to-face only; a number of combinations are possible that can work specifically for the discipline or course," Mississippi State's plan reads. “Faculty are encouraged to explore creative approaches using blended and hybrid approaches this semester that maximize safety but also provide in-person instruction and interactions with students."
All faculty who are teaching face-to-face will have technology that allows livestream or video capture, so students who have coronavirus-related symptoms can watch the lectures online, according to university officials.
Both Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi have revised their fall semester schedules to reduce the need for travel by students. Fall breaks are being eliminated and students will end the semester before Thanksgiving.
Both schools will provide regular COVID-19 testing for staff and students. Students who have tested positive for coronavirus, those who have been exposed and any students returning from international travel will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.
All campus facilities will be sanitized multiple times throughout the day.
Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.