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USC Aiken prepares for students and staff to return to campus safely

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 11:09 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - As K-12 school districts prepare for a safe reopening, local universities are doing the same.

On Wednesday, USC Aiken released “Pacer Ready, Set, Return” which details how the university plans to return students and staff to campus Aug. 20, 2020

Thayer McGahee was one of the coordinators on the COVID-19 task force which started back in March.

″It’s been kinda lonely here all summer” she said. “We’re a face-to-face college -- not an online university -- so we’re ready to be back face-to-face with our students.”

The task force that formed the plan was made up of 11 different groups. The plan tackles all the procedures students and staff should follow during the first semester back.

Some of the things students can expect are more frequent classroom cleanings, smaller class sizes, a mask requirement for on-campus areas, and required testing for students living on campus and athletes before they return.

There are also some physical changes. The university has informational signage all over campus, social distancing floor reminders for areas that may of lines, and plexiglass is in place in areas like computer labs where social distancing is not possible.

“Even that added protection of masks and the Plexiglas and/or the social distancing, the more you can do the better,” said McGahee.

USC Aiken junior Katlyn Johnson says she knows this semester will look very different.

“It’s gonna be very different with the masks and stuff,” she said. “With the whole thing going on.”

Johnson says she hopes people will take the safety precautions seriously.

″It only takes one person, you know, to have the virus, and then it spreads like wildfire,” she said.

Similar to Augusta University, USC Aiken’s instruction will be a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online classes. Their plan also covers what will happen in the event of increasing case numbers. There are five different alert levels ranging from “minimal” to “very high.” Each level features added precautions as the threat of the virus grows. The highest alert level corresponds to another stay-at-home order requiring the campus to be closed.

“In my opinion, I think the school is doing everything they can,” said Johnson. “I think they’re doing everything in their power to keep the students safe.”

Many of the safety precautions rely on personal accountability.

″If each individual does his or her part, I think we can all return back to campus safely,” said McGahee.

The university is also producing educational videos for students and staff to watch prior to the start date.

They are requiring students living on-campus be tested prior to move-in, so the university will be offering free COVID-19 testing on campus. Also, a team of trained volunteer contact tracers will be working to stop the spread of the virus after any potential positive case.

To see the whole plan, click here.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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