Christian Brothers, Rhodes share plans for safe student return in fall

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Many colleges and universities are still trying to decide what their fall semesters will look like in the face of coronavirus.

But two local colleges are ready to share plans for a fall comeback.

The Christian Brothers University campus has been closed for weeks, as all spring and summer  classes were moved online.

Students like Brooke Johnson said it’s been different.

“For a psychology major, we do experiments and research and so doing all that at home, it was kind of difficult for me and hard for me to focus,” the CBU junior said.

But Johnson and other students will be back on campus soon.

CBU President Jack Shannon said it’s back to school in August.

“We announced yesterday that we are going to make a slight change to our fall semester,” Shannon said. “We are going to start on Thursday, August 13, and conclude the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.”

CBU classes are starting a week earlier than normal, and fall break is now gone. Students will stay in class until Thanksgiving and then have a long winter break until January.

“That will allow us to have uninterrupted on-campus instruction, as well as hybrid online learning during the fall semester,” Shannon said. “We are eliminating a fall break and minimizing the risk of students going off campus and being exposed to COVID-19 elsewhere and binging it back to campus.”

Rhodes College also sent updates Wednesday to students for the fall semester. It too will end in-person classes after Thanksgiving break.

Classes for Rhodes students will begin August 26 and continue through November 24. The few classes remaining after that, as well as exams, will be conducted remotely. Rhodes will have a one-day, mid-week fall break for students.

Rhodes will also implement strict sanitation guidelines and offer support for students who have difficulty with classes due to COVID-19.

Shannon said CBU doesn’t have large classes, as most are less than 20 students, so social distancing in the classroom won’t be as difficult as it would for larger schools. But they are still planning.

About 500 students use on-campus housing at Christian Brothers. They’re also making plans on how that will look in the face of social distancing.

Furniture will be rearranged, and layouts will be changed as needed. Everyone will be encouraged to practice safety.

“We are going to move forward with the requirement that students, faculty and staff wear masks and appropriately safeguard not just themselves but also other people in this community,” Shannon said.

Johnson lives in one of the dorms.

“You don’t know who other people have been around,” she said. “I just feel like if they clean up or just sanitize properly and have the proper procedures, it will help my anxiety, help me be less paranoid.”

J.P. Mattis, student government president at CBU, said he’s been talking with other students about the plans to come back in the fall

“Some are a little confused,” he said. “Some are a little worried about coming back.”

CBU said it will continue to work on its fall plan, consulting with health officials and making adjustments as needed.

“I definitely will be taking the safety precautions myself, like I hope the rest of the people will,” Mattis said. “I know the school will do a great job of doing that. I am just nervous and excited.”

The first group of employees will return to the CBU campus June 15.

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