N.C. A&T announces cautious reopening plans

Chancellor+Harold+L.+Martin+and+members+of+his+senior+staff+hosted+the+student+forum+via+Zoom%2C+announcing+the+universitys+reopening+procedures.+

Lauren Mitchell

Chancellor Harold L. Martin and members of his senior staff hosted the student forum via Zoom, announcing the university’s reopening procedures.

Lauren Mitchell, Managing Editor

To kick off the semester, Chancellor Harold L. Martin and his senior staff hosted the first virtual forum of 2021 to update students on COVID-19 safety measures and present plans for the semester.

Changes in operations were at the forefront of conversation during the Monday, Feb. 8, Zoom call. Topics included campus dining, athletics and the possibility of fan attendance, housing and visitation and campus activities. 

Following the take-home testing, students were required to complete COVID testing kit to return; a 1.5% positivity rate was found. 

“We want to cultivate an inclusive teaching environment,” said Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Dr. Tonya Smith-Jackson. 

Compared to last Spring semester, enrollment at the university increased by 3% topping 12,038 students and an undergrad enrollment of 10,481. 

Classrooms on campus are continuing operations similar to the Fall 2020 semester with on-campus, remote and distance learning options. Students having issues with connectivity on campus should report to the ITS help desk in the basement of Bluford Library.

In the two weeks since the campus reopened for the Spring semester, the university has maintained positive rates below 2 percent for the recent testing periods. The Student Health Center has seen about a thousand people per week since January. 

The Health Center also noted that the COVID Dashboard will be updated Monday, Wednesday, Friday. In the most recent testing period, Feb. 5-7, on the university dashboard there were four cases among faculty and students. 

The university announced it will be opening a vaccine clinic to provide first inoculations for 200 individuals on Thursday. The clinic will be held in the Alumni Foundation Event Center starting February 11.

Following state guidelines, the clinic will vaccinate A&T staff, faculty and students who fall within the first two approved groups: 

1) Health care workers and long-term care facility staff and residents.

2) Individuals 65 and older, regardless of health status or other circumstances.

“We are concerned with doing a better job at educating those in our community about the vaccine in order to mitigate the impact of the virus overtime,” Chancellor Martin said. The university will be administering the Moderna vaccine. 

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Appointments will be required, and individuals interested in being scheduled should sign up online.

Dr. Melody C. Pierce, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, announced the state of student affairs and how the Dean of Students enforce campus safety. 

“Between 8pm and 10pm, at least twice weekly, the Dean of Students patrols the areas around the Student Center and the Deese Clocktower,” Dr. Pierce said.

Starting Wednesday, limited in-person campus dining will resume in Williams Dining Hall and Student Center eateries with seating limited to 50 percent of each restaurant and dining hall’s capacity. Dining options will also continue their take- out options as well at this time. 

The university has plans for two wellness days for the semester, one in March and one in April. 

“Getting in those two were really the best we could do at this time,” Dr. Jackson said regarding the late start to the semester for the amount of days. 

A decision regarding pass/fail grading has not been made, summer classes will be fully online. Commencement will be  a virtual event. “We don’t want a superspreader event,” Dr. Jackson said. 

For students living in university housing, no non-university resident visitors will be allowed during the first four weeks of the semester.

Once the university reaches Phase One current N.C. A&T residential students will be able to visit other residential students. Then in the launch of Phase Two family members will be able to visit students in the common areas of residence halls. 

The Student Center has plans to open its recreational activities starting Feb 9, however common area seating will be closed. Intramural Sports is beginning its ESports gaming tournaments. 

Campus Recreation will reopen on Wed, Feb. 10 with required pre-registration for one hour workout slots. Patrons will be required to be temperature checked and COVID-19 screened prior to entry as well as wear a mask while within the center. Appointments will be available via signup genius

During the question and answer session, it was asked if students may be required to receive the vaccine to return to campus in Fall 2021, Interim Executive Director of the Student Health Center, Dr. Padonda Webb noted that at this time it’s too early in the vaccine availability to make a requirement. 

“While the circumstances aren’t certain at the moment to make requirements, they are under consideration, it may not be Fall 2021, we don’t know but the conversation is happening,” Chancellor Martin said.