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Returning To Campus? Maybe. IU President Outlines 5 Scenarios For Fall Semester

A Jacobs School of Music building on the Indiana University-Bloomington campus.

(Emma Atkinson, WFIU/WTIU News)

IU’s fall semester classes will likely look different this year.

As some schools around the country have canceled in-person classes or announced plans for reopening come fall, IU President Michael McRobbie is taking a more measured approach.

Promising in-person classes and activities in the fall would not be "realistic or even responsible" at this point, according to a Thursday campuswide email from McRobbie. He says IU officials are planning for five possible scenarios.

Scenario One

The first  is to return to in-person teaching and research — but not a return to pre-pandemic life at IU. McRobbie writes that due to the likelihood of continued social distancing guidelines, changes would have to include "reconfiguring large lecture classes; re-engineering courses and performances that bring people into close physical contact; and modifying laboratory and studio practices to ensure proper distancing, numbers of people in gatherings and cleaning."

Scenario Two

McRobbie calls the second proposed reopening scenario the most likely one. It would be a hybrid approach, involving both virtual learning and in-person classes. 

"The balance between in-person and virtual teaching would emerge from the impact of continuing public health directives," McRobbie writes. He emphasizes that flexibility would be key to this scenario's success; i.e. prioritizing classes for in-person or for virtual instruction, creating modular classes, rethinking the weekly schedule to spread out larger classes, or a combination of those and other measures.

Scenario Three

This option involves holding the entire fall semester virtually, much like the latter half of this year's spring semester, and then moving to "hybrid operations" in Spring 2021.

Scenario Four

This plan considers the possibility that the spread of the coronavirus may worsen later in the year. McRobbie's email characterizes it as "the need to return to virtual operations in the spring after having begun hybrid operations in the fall."

Scenario Five

The final scenario is what McRobbie calls "the most difficult of all": conducting the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year virtually.


IU announced in late March that spring semester classes would be conducted online due to the rising threat of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

READ MORE: IU Moves Classes Online, Cancels Events For Remainder Of Semester

McRobbie emphasizes that, until a vaccine is found and implemented, the university will take precautions to prevent further spread of the virus, even in the case of a partial reopening of campuses.

These could include:

  • Continued social distancing
  • Fast and comprehensive virus testing and, perhaps, antibody testing
  • Therapeutics
  • Temperature monitoring and surveillance
  • Contact tracing

Earlier this month, IU announced the formation of a Restart Committee, chaired by IU Executive Vice President and IU School of Medicine Dean Jay Hess, to advise university leaders on how and when to resume classes and activities. 

McRobbie says those recommendations will be used to make a phased plan to  reopen campuses and resume school activities, the earliest of which will be university research. 

"I do not want to sugarcoat the situation with trite phrases or hollow optimism," McRobbie writes. "Even under the best of circumstances, academic and research life at IU will not be the same for some time, and we will feel the repercussions of this pandemic for many years."

The final week of IU's spring semester begins Monday.

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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