MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The University of Minnesota Board of Regents has begun to discuss ways that students could return to campus in the fall.

Last week, President Joan Gabel recommended that the university resume in-person classes as well as reopen residence halls for students.

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“Our recommended plan calls for the university to be available for in-person education and on-campus experiences this fall,” Gabel said.

After months of planning and consulting with students, staff and health experts, the University of Minnesota believes it can safely resume classes at all five of its campuses.

In a video conference with the Board of Regents, Gabel emphasized social distancing across campus.

“Ultimately, we believe we are as safe as any place to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff,” said Gabel.

As COVID-19 changes, Gabel said the plan allows for flexibility so the U of M can change too.

That means potentially starting fall semester early and ending early, as health officials anticipate another COVID-19 surge in late fall.

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“We thus further recommend that system-wide all campus in-person graduate and undergraduate instruction stop by Thanksgiving break or sooner if public health guidelines dictate,” said Rachel Croson, executive vice president and provost.

The U is prepared to pivot. For international students struggling with visas or those with underlying health conditions, many classes will still be offered online.

“We commit to ensuring that students who cannot participate in in-person instructions, will never less be able to advance their education,” Croson said.

For those that return, they’ll find hand sanitizer and thorough cleanings taking place across campus. As a way to advance social distancing, the U of M is also looking into turning some open spaces into classrooms, and they could potentially offer courses on Saturdays.

“President Gabel and I believe this framework will allow us to move forward with flexibility as the situation demands,” Croson said.

U of M officials also said they have sufficient COVID-19 testing capabilities, and the ability to contact trace if someone were to test positive on campus.

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The Board of Regents is expected to vote on the plan in July.

John Lauritsen