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Western Kentucky University has posted an update to the Big Red Restart plan for the fall semester. WKU President Timothy C. Caboni issued the communication to faculty, staff and students outlining the major changes and clarifications.

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students: 

During the last two weeks, our four Restart WKU Committees reviewed the terrific feedback provided by our WKU Community on our Big Red Restart plan. We appreciate your engagement and personal investment to ensure our reopening plan both protects the health and wellbeing of all those on our campuses and provides the unique WKU Experience.

After reviewing your feedback, we have clarified the questions and concerns that were prevalent throughout the forms. The committees’ responses to those recurring themes are below:

Why was the academic calendar modified?

The calendar was modified to mitigate the anticipated flare-up of COVID-19 cases consistent with the yearly return of cold and flu season. Observing Fall Break, as well as Labor Day, during the Thanksgiving week and moving to remote delivery for the last two weeks of the semester allows the maximum number of in-person class meetings prior to cold and flu season, mitigates community spread as a function of personal travel and allows faculty ample time to plan for a successful student learning experience and final assessment.

How will students’ tuition be affected if their class(es) move from face-to-face to online?

We are taking actions that are in the best interest of our students, even when it is more difficult for us as an institution, being mindful that we don’t place the financial burden stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic on our students or their families. As a reminder, we will NOT increase tuition for the 2020-21 academic year, and we have waived (for one year) the distance learning course fee. To be clear, this also means that if students’ on-campus classes are switched to online modality, by WKU or due to personal choice, their tuition assessment will remain at the on-campus rate.

What will course delivery look like and how are faculty preparing?

Over the summer, we will continue to make adjustments to course types (traditional in-person, online or hybrid); these changes will appear in TopNet. By mid-July, the vast majority of courses will be solidified. Later in the summer, professors will communicate with students about their specific classes. 

It has always been the intent of this plan to provide teaching faculty options and flexibility to deliver the highest quality courses possible for students using modalities appropriate to the various disciplines. We believe that the faculty, in consultation with their department heads and deans, are best situated to understand, develop and choose the course delivery method that most effectively and appropriately delivers a quality educational experience for their courses, be that face-to-face, hybrid or online. WKU is strengthened as an institution as it supports faculty to explore, develop and deliver courses using new pedagogical methods.

We are committed to providing faculty with the professional development and technology necessary for creating revised, purposeful and effective learning environments. We urge faculty to support their colleagues by sharing best practices and strengthening their own teaching by engaging with the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) as we continue to climb together. We thank students and faculty for their willingness to be open-minded and embrace opportunities to be fully engaged participants in student-centered, applied educational experiences at WKU. CITL will release a schedule of training opportunities for faculty soon. 

Finally, to further accommodate students who are unable to return to face-to-face learning in the fall, WKU will make every effort to support students who feel they are at risk engage in remote teaching and learning. We are working with WKU ITS to upgrade our learning spaces in a way that supports Zoom access to face-to-face experiences. 

Will face masks be required?

Appropriate face masks are required:

At all times when in public areas or shared spaces within buildings, including hallways and classrooms when social distancing of at least six feet is not possible

Outdoors when near others where social distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained

When in a vehicle with other persons, including cars, vans and buses

There are situations where a face mask is not required or cannot be worn due to the type of activity or factors related to the environment. Examples include:

While eating or drinking

While in your residence hall room or alone inside a University office

In environments where hazards exist that create a greater risk by wearing a mask (engineering bays, biology research & instructional labs, etc.)

Performing physical exertion, such as manual labor, running and athletics training

Outdoors with more than six feet continuous separation between all people or there is only brief contact such as passing a person on the sidewalk

Other physical limitations or conditions that preclude an individual from wearing a face mask.

How will the University have student activities this fall, given the circumstances?

Traditional orientation activities (e.g., M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan, H-4, ISEC Academy Academic Bootcamp, Greek Life activities, student worker trainings, etc.) will have instructional components outlining required guidelines and behavioral expectations. Orientation, training and onboarding activities will be conducted in an online modality and in small group settings held frequently. Students will hear more from the Division of Student Experience before returning in the fall.

What are spring 2020 and fall 2020 commencement/recognition ceremony plans?

We continue to develop plans for our spring 2020 graduates to be honored the weekend of September 18-20. December 2020 recognition ceremonies will be combined with spring 2021 commencement.

Will residence halls close at the Thanksgiving break and why is the visitor policy restricted to only WKU students?

Residence halls will remain open after the Thanksgiving break, closing December 12 at 10am.

Additionally, the visitor policy has been revised to also allow visitors who are not WKU students (restriction remains one visitor). 

The uncertainty of the pandemic now, and in the weeks and months ahead, complicate the planning process. We must, now more than ever before, be increasingly nimble and flexible as we work through this time together. As we continue to plan for our fall reopening, it’s important to understand that our plans and strategies will evolve. It’s critical that you visit wku.edu/restart often to stay up-to-date. The materials posted here, including the latest version of the Big Red Restart and revised WKU Restart Committee reports, are living documents and will continue to be updated as new knowledge, guidelines and learning through best practices become available.

We appreciate your commitment to WKU and the continual care you demonstrate for each other, for our students and for our communities. Although this fall will look different than the last, it will be an incredible time of renewal as we once again gather as a Hilltopper Family. 

Click here for complete information on the WKU Restart Plan.

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