Here’s how Florida’s large universities are planning to reopen

Measures include required masks in enclosed areas, testing for thousands of students and staff, and new policies for student housing.
USF students cross the intersection of Holly and Palm drives on campus.
USF students cross the intersection of Holly and Palm drives on campus. [ Times (2019) ]
Published June 13, 2020|Updated June 15, 2020

Florida’s 12 state universities had a Friday deadline for giving the Board of Governors their plans for reopening in the fall after shutting down during the coronavirus crisis. Here’s a summary of what the state’s larger universities are planning:

University of Florida

Century Tower in the heart of the University of Florida campus.
Century Tower in the heart of the University of Florida campus. [ University of Florida ]

The University of Florida’s plan states their reopening efforts began May 6, when they committed to screening all employees before they returned to work in a phased-in fashion. The plan calls for all 29,000 employees to be screened and cleared by June 30.

“All these actions are being taken with an eye toward being open and embracing our students’ return to Gainesville and UF,” the plan states.

All students will be required to complete a symptom survey before returning, and students with coronavirus symptoms will be required to be tested. All students working in clinical or research environments will also be required to test and students arriving from certain states or internationally must either quarantine at their own expense for 14 days or be tested and cleared.

Housing contracts will be honored for fall, though 111 rooms designed for three will only house two students and guests will be limited. Students who live on campus and test positive will be required to quarantine at an off-campus site that the university has identified for at least 14 days.

The plan states classes will be delivered face-to-face, online or in a hybrid form. It says the university will work to provide reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities or those who are at high-risk or share a household with such a person. Students will have the option to move to online-only classes after Thanksgiving break, but will not be required to.

“Depending on a student’s major course of study, we expect that most undergraduate students who would prefer to take most or all of their courses remotely would be able to arrange a schedule to do so,” the plan states.

The university also plans to offer personal protective equipment to faculty and staff who will be in regular, extended contact with students.

Face coverings will be required in enclosed spaces and employees who do not comply with wearing masks or physical distancing can be reported to human resources and can be considered disruptive. Students who don’t comply can be found in violation of the student code of conduct.

The plan also calls on policymakers outside the university to set an example.

“Behavioral norms and the ability to enforce expectations on campus will almost certainly be heavily influenced by what is happening in the rest of society,” it says. “The more successful that policymakers are in reinforcing a climate of shared responsibility, the more receptive the campus community is likely to be, although we intend to call on the Gator Nation to do more and expect more of each other.”

University of Central Florida

A view of the Student Union at the University of Central Florida.
A view of the Student Union at the University of Central Florida. [ University of Central Florida ]

The University of Central Florida’s multi-phase plan to return to campus includes transitioning back to online-only classes after Thanksgiving break, like the University of South Florida.

Building capacity outside of classrooms, labs and health care environments is anticipated to be around 50 percent by July 13.

Classes will be offered in person, online and in a hybrid mode, and the plan states employees who can work remotely “will be encouraged to do so, especially those at high risk of complications from COVID-19 or who may be taking care of someone at high risk.” The plan states students who wish to continue remotely or are high-risk should be able to take classes exclusively online. Any employee or student who has COVID-19 symptoms or lives with someone exhibiting those symptoms will be required to stay home.

The plan states faculty, staff or students who violate the policy will be given an opportunity to correct their behavior but repeated non-compliance will “result in the individual’s removal from campus until compliance is achieved” and could result in disciplinary action or “separation from the university.”

Semester-long study abroad programs have been cancelled.

Housing will be filled at reduced occupancy with a phased move-in procedure starting Aug. 8, and all students living on campus will be tested before returning. The university has reserved spaces for students who must isolate if they test positive.

All students, faculty and staff will be required to take daily digital screenings. Those who exhibit symptoms will be required to test upon returning to campus, along with those coming from geographic areas with significant transmission of COVID-19, students living on campus or in Greek Life housing and student-athletes.

“As a leader in tourism with over 75 million people visiting Orlando annually, we know that as our theme parks, beaches, restaurants, and other attractions open, we may face challenges,” the plan states. “A phased approach allows UCF to hold steady, tighten restrictions, or make changes to reflect changing conditions or new guidance.”

University of South Florida

Students walk across the USF St. Petersburg campus. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
Students walk across the USF St. Petersburg campus. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

The University of South Florida Board of Trustees passed a four-phase reopening plan earlier this week.

Related: RELATED: USF trustees approve plan to reopen campuses. Masks will be required in enclosed areas.

The plan calls for an initial random sample of 10 percent of students, faculty and staff to be tested before returning to campus. Also tested will be all students planning to live on campus, and all students from outside the state or country — or those who live in a county with greater than a 7 percent positive test-rate for the virus.

Related: RELATED: Thousands would be tested for COVID-19 as USF reopens. Plan calls for virtual, in-person classes.

Masks will be required in all enclosed spaces.

Courses will be offered in virtual, in-person and hybrid formats, and high-risk faculty will be allowed to continue remotely.

“Students will not be required to register for face-to-face classes in the fall,” a document from the provost’s office sent to college deans said.

Housing is expected to re-open at capacity and units have been reserved on both Tampa and St. Petersburg campuses for those who test positive and are required to isolate for 14 days.

Two reusable face coverings will be provided to each student, faculty and staff member. Consequences for students not complying with health guidelines range from verbal warnings to suspension and discipline from the Student Conduct Board.

“It’s a contingency model,” USF president Steve Currall said. “This is intentionally a conservative plan. It’s easier to relax procedures if public health data changes than to create new ones.” The first phase begins Monday and the university anticipates to begin phase 2 by June 29, based on data following the first two weeks of Phase 1.

Florida State University

Outside the Wescott building on the Florida State University campus.
Outside the Wescott building on the Florida State University campus. [ Times (2007) ]

Florida State University’s plan aims to start phasing students back to campus Aug. 10 before the semester starts on Aug. 24.

Courses will be offered online, in-person and in hybrid format. The plan says high-risk faculty can work with human resources to modify their schedule and students who decide not to return to campus should be able to continue their classes virtually.

All employees will be required to be tested before returning to campus and any individual who plans to be physically present on campus will be “strongly encouraged” to undergo testing.

“FSU has set forth the aspirational goal of initial baseline return-to-campus COVID-19 testing of all faculty, staff and students,” the plan states. “Students may be asked to take a COVID-19 test as part of FSU’s Sentinel Surveillance program, which aims to test a percentage of students monthly to detect when community spread may be increasing.”

An email sent to students states the university will not guarantee single-occupancy housing for all who request it, but will not be assigning triple or quadruple room assignments unless specifically requested.

Students will be required to wear face masks in common areas, and students who test positive will be moved to an 80-bed on-campus hall reserved for isolation.

“We also cannot guarantee you the full semester will be open for residential living,” the statement said. “This again will be based on the campus decisions to provide the best conditions possible for healthy living.”

Here are links to the other state universities’ proposed reopening plans:

Florida A&M University

Florida Atlantic University

Florida Gulf Coast University

Florida International University

New College

Florida Polytechnic

University of North Florida

University of West Florida