Stetson College of Law Dean Michele Alexandre announced to incoming students last week that the school would return with predominantly face-to-face classes following CDC guidelines for higher education and universities for the fall semester.
Alexandre also noted that the law school was working on a revised academic calendar that would likely start a week earlier, bringing first year students to campus for orientation Aug. 8 rather than Aug. 15, and condensing the usual 13-week curriculum into 12 weeks. In order to condense the schedule, Associate Dean Jason Bent said that the school will slightly lengthen each class.
With that schedule, Bent explained, all classes and in-person exams would be finished before Thanksgiving, which would reduce the likelihood of traveling students returning to campus with possible COVID-19 infections just prior to exams that are normally held between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“Our commitment to be face-to-face will include safety in the classroom, physical distancing between seats, proper ventilation and our commitment to provide PPEs to every student, and that would include a face mask,” said Alexandre. ‘We will guide you in on the use of that face mask, you will probably need more than one, but we are committed to give you one.” Alexandre said faculty and staff will also be provided face masks.
The Stetson College of Law administration emphasized that safety of students, faculty and staff is their top priority. As such, Stetson is considering mitigation efforts like spacing students in larger classrooms than usual with six-foot distances between them, designing class start and end times to stagger entrance and release from the building, and breaking what are normally much larger cohorts into smaller groups that will allow the school to contact trace in the case of COVID-19 infections.
“We will have a rigorous tracing system for our health protocol,” said Alexandre, “which means that we’ll be able to monitor if someone gets sick and the contacts that they’ve had with individuals, and we’ll be able to insulate that cohort group until they are well.”
The school is also planning to create guidelines for movement throughout the campus, so allow for greater social distancing, like paths to enter and exit the campus to allow for students to avoid unnecessary contacts.
Alexandre also emphasized that the school was taking cleaning and sanitization protocols very seriously. She said that the classrooms, which have already been empty for weeks, have been thoroughly and professionally sanitized and will remain closed until the start of fall classes.
“Our protocol is a multi-layered, very, very complex sanitation protocol as advised by CDC. And it involves cleaning between classrooms with specific machines that are designed to fight COVID-19,” Alexandre said. “Part of our steps in getting ready for the fall will be to educate you and the rest of the community on all of the things that you also will be doing to balance the cleaning so that our work with cleaning is not undone by someone not washing hands … We all have a part in the protection against COVID.”
Alexandre explained that students with health concerns surrounding coming to campus in-person would have options. The dean explained that the school is considering an fully online cohort for the first semester and possibly second semester.
“In this landscape, this is not about categorical mandates,” she said. “This landscape requires us to really communicate to one another about what you need.”