With COVID-19 vaccinations increasing and the number of cases in Los Angeles County declining, UCLA officials on March 18 offered plans for a more robust return to on-campus operations.
UCLA administrative leaders and faculty members hosted a virtual town hall for faculty and staff, addressing plans for the spring quarter that starts March 29 and projections for a “substantial” return to in-person education in fall 2021. The changes are spurred in part by Los Angeles County entering the less restrictive red tier of protocols on March 15. Michael Beck, administrative vice chancellor and co-chair of UCLA’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force, said it is possible that the county could enter the orange tier, which would allow even greater activity, in the next month or so if conditions continue to improve.
Testing protocols, symptom monitoring, and safety and physical distancing protocols remain in place on campus and are expected to continue into fall. Here are some highlights:
Experiential learning courses, such as laboratory classes, art studio classes and vocational training, can take place in person.
In-person learning can take place in some graduate courses, limited to 100 students or 25% of normal capacity, whichever is smaller.
Indoor dining will be allowed, limited to 25% of normal capacity of the facility or 100 people, whichever is smaller. Outdoor dining is still recommended.
The Geffen Academy at UCLA will return to in-person learning on April 5. The UCLA Lab School reopened for in-person learning on March 8.
Academic departments may add in-person classes if faculty wish to do so. It has not yet been determined if UCLA will host the summer camps usually held on campus.
Michael Meranze, professor of history and co-chair of the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force, said UCLA is “engaged in on-going planning for a substantial return to in-person teaching, learning and working in the fall. Our aim and our hope is to have as full and in-person an experience as possible while staying within the boundaries of county, state and federal guidelines and adhering to the latest scientific evidence.”
Classrooms are expected to operate at between 50% and 100% of normal capacity. Depending on distribution of the vaccines and control of the virus, the number of students who can live in on-campus residence halls may ramp up from the current 700 or so to between 10,000 and 11,000, Beck said. If conditions continue to improve and construction is completed on new campus housing projects under way, that figure could grow to 15,000.
The campus expects to continue with decreased workplace density, to the degree feasible.
Staffers who can successfully perform their tasks remotely will likely continue to do so.
The town hall also addressed accommodations for those who may be unable to return to campus and cleaning plans for campus facilities, among other topics. In addition to Beck and Meranze, speakers included Susan Ettner, professor and interim dean of graduate education; Renee Fortier, executive director of UCLA Events and Transportation; Adriana Galván, professor of psychology and dean of undergraduate education; Andrea Kasko, professor of bioengineering and chair of the graduate council of the UCLA Academic Senate; and Megan McEvoy, professor of microbiology and chair of the undergraduate council of the Academic Senate.