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UNR releases in-depth reopening plans

By Jeri Chadwell
Published: Last Updated on

The University of Nevada, Reno, is planning for the return of students to its campuses in the fall and has released a 66-page guide to reopening. The guide likely doesn’t answer every question students, faculty, staff and their families will have, but it does cover everything from classes to student housing and services and the return of staff and faculty to their respective departments. 

It also covers rules, including the mandatory use of masks both indoors and out.


Instruction during the fall semester has been planned using a HyFlex model—one that combines in-person and remote learning for various types of classes while allowing others to be either entirely remote or fully in-person.

The introduction to the instruction portion of the reopening plan notes that return to campus will be a fluid situation, and the university could find itself in any of the first three phases outlined by the governor at any time during the semester.

“While completely remote instruction is not desirable, University faculty will be much better prepared to provide quality education should this become necessary,” the report reads. “Faculty now have much better familiarity with Zoom technology and the pedagogy that works best with this technology.”

It also notes that UNR is providing training opportunities for faculty during the summer through a series of one-week classes provided by its Teaching & Learning Technology (TLT) department; approximately 300 faculty are enrolled.

It seems faculty and students will need to be prepared for many classes to be offered entirely remotely, even if the university does not have to revert back to phase 1 guidelines at any point in the semester.

empty school lecture hall
An empty lecture hall. Image: Changbok Ko on Unsplash

According to the reopening report, “After careful review of classroom geometry, classrooms with moveable desks provide the optimal flexibility, but even they can only accommodate 33% or less of classroom capacity while providing six-foot distancing. Classrooms with fixed seating allow for only 11-13% of total capacity.

“Faced with this reality, if Phase 2 restrictions persist, all fall classes with enrollments of 35 or more students would be offered in a purely remote mode to provide the spacing needed for in-person classes. Even with this reduction, the in-person classes with enrollments of 34 or less would be delivered in mixed modality (hybrid or HyFlex), in which no more than half of the students participate in class on any given day, while the other half participates remotely.”

The result will likely be that approximately 1,100 lecture classes will be delivered purely remotely, while about 3,000 classes can be taught on campus using a mix of in-person and remote participation.

Some classes with small enrollments—e.g., 10 or fewer students—like graduate seminars and some studio classes, may be offered entirely in-person if the faculty members teaching them can provide assurances that appropriate social distancing and safety measures can be observed.

Plans are being made to offer introductory science laboratories in an online format if necessary. 

According to the report, however, “Advanced laboratory and studio classes generally are not well suited for online delivery and it is likely that these classes would not be offered under Phase 2 distancing requirements.”

Faculty will receive training to “include effective strategies for encouraging compliance and responding to forgetfulness and/or willful non-compliance of facial covering and/or social distancing in the classroom, including training in de-escalation techniques.”

Students who cannot or will not wear a face mask will not be allowed to attend class. If a faculty member has trouble with an obstinate student, they can refer them to their academic advisor to “explore the possibility of taking the class online.” 

That’s provided the student has not violated the school’s code of conduct “or behaved in such a way that they are being recommended for administrative withdrawal from the class (e.g., threatened physical or verbal abuse), and that the class has an online option.”

If a student refuses to wear a mask, the report advises that a faculty member can call police services to have the student removed from the classroom or cancel class for that day “with the understanding that any student who doesn’t comply with safety guidelines in future classes will not be allowed to attend and may be administratively removed from the class.”

Student housing and common-use areas

The portion of the report covering on-campus student housing reviews staffing in residence halls, the implementation of sanitizing stations and other safety protocols. It also details living arrangements for students, including a rule that will require no more than two students per bedroom.

The report notes that in instances where two students share a single room, they’ll be recommended to sleep “head to toe, maximizing distances between residents’ heads” and that all “triple and quad rooms will be ‘converted’ to doubles, at double rate.”

Residence halls will also have one or two designated “sick rooms” per floor for students “who appear sick until they can be tested for COVID-19.” 

The report says this will allow them to be removed from their roommates but remain in the community.

The school also plans to designate a “quarantine wing” in Sierra Hall, each room with an in-room bathroom, for “students who are diagnosed with COVID-19 (or other highly communicable condition as determined by the Student Health Center) and are unable to leave campus.”

A student staff member will be trained to deliver and retrieve food from students who are sick and self-isolating or in quarantine.

Plans have also been made to maximize social distancing in shared spaces like community bathrooms, computer labs, laundry rooms, lobbies and lounges. Similar plans are being developed for other shared spaces students access, like the gym, the Mathewson IGT Knowledge Center and dining and retail locations in the Joe Crowley Student Union.

Services and facilities planning

The Student Health Center will assist “in providing access to viral testing for students with symptoms and those who have been a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case” and will work closely with the Washoe County Health District “to report and provide information about positive COVID-19 tests that have occurred on campus.”

The report also notes that the Health Center will assist in managing students with COVID-19 symptoms or a diagnosis, and ongoing monitoring of them while they’re isolated.

Another area outlined in the report is the Health Centers’ plans to work with Counseling Services to support the psychological well-being of students. With distancing restrictions and other protocols in place, many of the services students receive from the Health Center will need to be scheduled in advance. The university is working to make much of the information students need to provide when receiving services available online.

Also according to the report, “The Student Health Center has launched our new COVID-19 testing clinic. This clinic provides nasal swab PCR tests for active COVID-19 infections and is available to University of Nevada, Reno students, faculty and staff who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been identified as a contact of an individual diagnosed with COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 testing clinic will be available outside the Student Health Center main entrance Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. by appointment only. The first two hours (8:30-10:30) will be reserved for University students and the last two hours (10:30-12:30) for faculty and staff.”

All of UNR’s dining options will be open in the fall. Panera and Sushi Burrito are set to open after classes start. Employees will be provided increased personal protective equipment (PPE).

Seating in dining areas will be designated with the aim of maximizing social distancing, and signs will remind students and faculty of the expectations for distancing while waiting in line. UNR also plans to put out marketing to notify people of a reduction in places accepting cash.

Card readers are being installed at all dining locations to allow for contactless purchasing, and students will also have the opportunity to either have food delivered to the front desk of the dorms or to use a mobile app to pre-order their food.

The Pack Provisions program—which provides food from the Food Bank to students in need—will continue. There will be a pickup option as well as a delivery option that’s been devised with assistance from the Campus Escort program.

Not all services on campus are geared toward the student body. The Child and Family Research Center is among those that aren’t. It’s home to a Head Start program, which will also be operating this fall semester.

The reopening plans for the center state that “all staff are aware of the social distancing requirements and will attempt to maintain these. This may not always be possible when providing care and education for young children. Increased cleaning and sanitizing schedules will be maintained in all classroom spaces.”

The report notes that this “new way of working in an early childhood environment may be stressful for all” and that CARES Act funding was secured to increase collaboration with Northern Nevada Child & Adolescent Services over the next year. This partnership will be used to provide mental health support to staff members, parents and children “using a trauma informed approach.”

Athletics and clubs

Athletics are a big deal at UNR, and the school’s reopening plan addresses how various programs will be operated, from practices and academic advising to game days and travel. The plan covers topics ranging from locker rooms to stadium seating for fans and the operations thereof using social distancing guidelines.

Notable among the reopening plans for sports are testing and quarantine guidelines. According to the report, the “Nevada Athletics program will be conducting PCR nasal pharyngeal [sic] based testing weekly” and before travel. The tests will be conducted by the athletic trainers with a “member of the physician team…supervising at minimum indirectly.”

There are plans in place to address athletes who test positive for COVID-19, depending on how sick the disease makes them. There are also mandatory quarantine protocols for athletes returning from travel for their sports, including a currently prescribed 14-day quarantine, health screening surveys, COVID-19 testing, a physical exam, neurologic concussion baselines and EKG for each athlete to screen for “viral myocarditis, which is seen with some COVID-19 patients.”

Clubs’ events will be required to be virtual if they’d be indoor and have 100 or more participants or would be unable to keep participants six feet apart at all times.

For events with fewer than 100 people or outdoor events, clubs will be able to meet in-person provided all rules like mask wearing and social distancing are observed and the club has a plan for controlling access to the event and sanitizing the space.

Student publications will be allowed to return to in-person operations, though the plan noted that the editor of the school newspaper, the Sagebrush, has made the decision to not return to producing a physical paper.

Reopening of other departments and programs

Reopening plans for UNR’s other departments and programs from the graduate school to the marketing and communications department are also laid out in the report. They vary widely concerning the expectations for in-person versus remote work for their staffs depending, in part, on what services they provide.

Some programs, like the Extended Studies program, intend to offer “remote working accommodations for individuals who self-identify as vulnerable.” For the Northern Nevada International Center (NNIC), significant changes for the fall are not expected. “All employees who are able to work remotely will continue to do so.” Others—like those who work for the Office of Prospective Students—should plan to work on campus unless they have been approved by the University to continue remote work.

UNR’s Marketing and Communications division noted that “if and when there is a requirement to have all employees back on campus as part of the fall, 2020 plan, the Office of Marketing and Communications will use “alternating weeks” in the office” to maintain a 50% capacity that ensures proper social distancing. For the start of the Fall semester, Marketing and Communications will then plan to ALL be back on campus in the office, pending any setback or changes.”

UNR’s reopening plans can be viewed here. The school has also launched a “Return of the Pack” resources page on its website with additional information, including positive cases of COVID-19 on campus. 

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