State of Washington lays out plans for students to return to college campuses this fall

OLYMPIA, Wash – A proclamation from Washington Governor Jay Inslee guides the way for colleges and universities to prepare for in-person instruction this fall, even as the uncertainty of COVID-19 remains.

The proclamation provides specific health guidelines and protocol expectations for public and private colleges and universities, as well as career schools and apprenticeships.

Governor Inslee convened a work group that has been working to determine the best and safest ways to allow students to return to campus. Gov. Inslee says safety has been the priority of that group.

“Whether you’re a Husky or a Cougar… we want to make sure you’re protected while you get an education,” said Governor Inslee.

While allowing some flexibility for campuses based on the level of outbreak at the time, institutes of higher education will have to plan for things like facial coverings, social distancing, class sizes, plans to track and trace cases, limiting capacity for food services, restricting cash payments and possibly staggering schedules for some areas of campuses.

The University of Washington, for example, is changing food services to emphasize more pay-ahead, takeout meals to limit the number of people in the dining facilities at one time.

“We commit to faculty, staff, students and their families that safety will come first,” said University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce. “This plan is a pathway to safely [returning to in-person instruction].”

Cauce said fraternities and sororities at UW will only be at half capacity this fall.

The president of Pacific Lutheran University pointed to higher education as a key part of Washington’s economic recovery.

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Already this spring and summer, colleges and universities have laid out plans for their students this fall. Most emphasize a combination of in-person and virtual learning to reduce class sizes and the possibility of spreading the virus.

Colleges have faced dramatic economic impacts from COVID-19, from the loss of housing revenue to declines in enrollment. A hit to the state budget because of COVID-19 will also have a severe impact on colleges and universities.

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