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Here’s what you need to know about OSU’s spring semester plan amid COVID-19

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A sign promoting social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic in front of Edmon Low Library on Sunday, March 29, 2020.

Despite COVID-19 cases rising across the country, the spring semester at Oklahoma State University will look like a combination of the fall 2020 semester and the era before COVID.

The O’Colly obtained a document sent to faculty and staff by Provost Gary Sandefur in November that outlines some of the guidelines for the spring semester. 

Here are three takeaways from it:

Mandatory attendance is back

One of the key guidelines of the fall 2020 semester was the decision to not require in-person attendance at classes. 

That is no longer the case in the spring 2021 semester.

According to the document, instructors may require attendance for students who are not ill or do not have a legitimate reason to not attend.

Students will be expected to attend class in person “so long as they are not experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have another excused absence.” 

The COVID-related excused absences include being ill or experiencing any COVID-19-related symptoms, testing positive but not showing any symptoms, or being exposed to someone who has tested positive.

Students who experience any of these may attend class via livestream or watch the recording of the class. Classes will only be recorded if possible and live streaming is not required and will be at the discretion of the faculty member.

“For courses that are designed to be in-person, both students and faculty benefit from in-person instruction, therefore, we encourage students to attend classes whenever possible,” the document read.

Don’t feel comfortable going to class? You need a doctor’s note.

OSU’s non-mandatory attendance policy in the fall allowed students who didn’t feel comfortable attending class during an unprecedented pandemic to continue to learn comfortably. 

Now in the spring, OSU may ask for documentation if you don’t feel safe in a classroom environment. 

“Students who have other conditions that negatively affect their ability to attend class in person may be asked to provide documentation from a licensed physician, mental health professional or other appropriate professional,” the document read.

What the classrooms will look like

Masks and social distancing in the classroom were a staple of the fall 2020 semester and will continue to be in the spring as well, according to the document. 

“Current guidelines will continue for required face masks in all public locations, including classrooms and laboratories, and proper social distancing in all instructional spaces,” the document read.

OSU didn’t see a single instance of contact tracing for COVID-19 mapped back to a classroom in the fall. This was in large part thanks to proper safety protocols such as sanitizing, social distancing and seating charts to assist in contact tracing efforts.

After discussions between campus health officials and the provost, the university has determined seating charts will not be required in the spring.