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Missouri S&T Looks To Reopen In Phases With Classes Resuming In The Fall

Statue of St. Patrick looking over the Missouri S&T quad, 4-24-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio
The statue of St. Patrick looks out over an empty Missouri S&T campus. The school plans to bring people back in phases culminating in in-person classes in the fall semester.

ROLLA — With some data suggesting the region and state hit its peak in coronavirus spread more than a week ago, Missouri University of Science and Technology is planning to start a slow process of bringing people back to campus.

School officials announced the plan during a recent virtual town hall meeting, the latest in a series held every week since the coronavirus pandemic reached the area.

“The optimism [about the data] points us in a direction of looking at repopulation of campus in a well-thought-out, phased approach,” said Dr. Dennis Goodman, the university's medical director. “Getting ready for that phase that is going to occur in August which will be a large population surge.”

Like most colleges, Missouri S&T moved all classes online, closed dorms and almost completely vacated campus to help stop the spread of coronavirus in mid-March. That included canceling all St. Patrick’s Day festivities, the biggest community and social events of the year in Rolla.

Goodman said the university, consistent with its mission, is relying upon science and data to make decisions, and that is what is leading to the phased-in approach to repopulating campus. 

The first phase of the plan, which is already in place, includes essential campus staff like grounds, maintenance, facilities and university police all reporting to work on slightly modified schedules.

The second phase, which could start in a few weeks, would be reopening some labs so professors and graduate assistants could resume experiments and research.

The details and timing of the remaining phases will be released to the public soon, Goodman said. The intent is to ramp up to in-person classes being held on campus in the fall semester, which starts in August.

“I believe we will survive this and emerge stronger,” said S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani. “Frankly, I believe with the tools that have been developed, we will be able to offer our programs much more efficiently than we have in the past. So, take that as a silver lining.”

Dehghani added: “We are doing everything we can, and will get through this as a community.”

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Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.