Open SFA

Tim Monzingo/The Daily Sentinel

Belongings are packed into a car outside a residence hall at Stephen F. Austin State university in April as students move off campus. The university on Tuesday began requiring everyone on campus to wear a face covering.

Face masks will be mandatory in Lumberjack nation this fall.

Stephen F. Austin State University has released its Open SFA plan, which mirrors Gov. Greg Abbott’s initiative to reopen the Texas economy, and guidelines include face masks, social distancing and more flexibility for distance learning.

“The big question is could these plans change,” university president Dr. Scott Gordon said. “The answer is absolutely they could.”

A requirement for all visitors, students and employees on campus to wear face coverings went into effect Tuesday morning.

“If we wear our masks, as a nation, we can stay out of this resurgence,” Gordon said said.

The fall semester is expect to begin Aug. 24, and higher education officials are predicting lower enrollment numbers around the nation because of the coronavirus pandemic. To offer more flexibility for students who do not want to return to campus or in case of a resurgence of the virus, SFA will be offering more distance learning. After the Thanksgiving break, classes will only meet in a long-distance format.

“We’re going to have some face-to-face instruction, making sure we have some proper physical distancing. We’re going to have online courses where students will have on-campus attendance required. We’re going to have live streaming as well,” Gordon said.

SFA is installing technology upgrades in more than 80 classrooms to help increase access to distance learning. The upgrades will be paid with fundings from the multi-trillion dollar coronavirus relief package passed in congress.

The university plans to have its dorms and dining halls open all semester but has eliminated all on-campus living requirements and will no longer allow self-service dining.

“We’re going to try our best to have a normal fall,” Gordon said.

Most major universities around the nation have elected for a hybrid approach to returning to class in the fall. Some in the Northeast say they will allow some students to live on campus in the fall with all but a few courses delivered remotely.

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