ISU campus photo by (Christopher Gannon)

The University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University will start fall classes earlier and be done by Thanksgiving in an effort to avoid any problems with the coronavirus.

ISU Extension vice president John Lawrence leads the fall planning committee. He says students tend to mix with others when they go home and that increases their risk for exposure. “Visit friends and family and interact with people and then come back in where they were before and then two to three weeks after finals we send them home again. We thought that was just a risk we thought that we could avoid,” Lawrence says.

He says they also have a plan for testing and tracing to keep up on any possible COVID-19 cases. “We’ll be testing all faculty and staff and then the students living in our residence halls. Were standing up our own contact tracing team here on campus — it will work closely with Story County Public Health — but allow us to much more quickly track down people who may’ve come in contact with someone who has the systems or tested positive,” according to Lawrence.

He says they will also take other measures to help cut the spread. He says they are cutting the size of classes to give students more room and will expect all faculty, staff and students to wear face coverings. The three state schools finished the spring semester with online courses. Lawrence says ISU will have a mix of class types in the fall.

“There’ll be some things that will be online — particularly our large lectures will be online — and we will supplement those with discussion groups and recitation and so on,” according to Lawrence. “Some of our moderate size, mid-size lectures will move up into those larger classrooms. So they will have an in-person component. But they may also have an online piece.”

Lawrence says there are still a lot of things to work out. “Part of our ongoing work in this is trying to identify what are some of those trigger points where we may tighten up restrictions — or even the other way if things are going well — what are restrictions we might loosen up. So not only looking at different trigger points, but different actions that we can take,” Lawrence says. The schedule calls for fall classes to begin on August 17th and the semester will end the day before Thanksgiving. Classes will be held on Labor Day.

The University of Northern Iowa will follow the same calendar. The announcement from the school says they will have a mix of face-to-face, hybrid, and online instruction during the fall, and will also reduce the number of students in each classroom. Students and professors will be expected to wear cloth face coverings. The University of Iowa has not yet released its plans for fall classes.