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Tech orientation format changes

Extension of Phase Two COVID-19 reopening causes transition to online
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

In response to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ announcement last week that Louisiana will remain in Phase Two of economic reopening for at least another month, Louisiana Tech University has moved its upcoming freshman orientation sessions to online-only format.

With the first session slated to begin on July 8, orientation could have more easily been held in person if the spread of the novel coronavirus had lessened enough for the state to move into Phase Three.

Instead, the university decided to keep incoming freshmen at home after Edwards in his July 22 announcement said that the fastest growth in COVID-19 cases in Louisiana is occurring among young adults between 18 and 29 years old.

“While we had hopes that July would bring declining cases and lessened fears of spread, the reality is that we are not out of the woods yet,” said Elton Scott Taylor II, Tech’s director of orientation, in a post on the university’s website. “We cannot risk the health and safety of our students and parents.”

Edwards extended Phase Two after observing a rise in new cases of COVID-19 and related hospitalizations in multiple regions of the state. Last week saw almost 2,700 new cases recorded.

The statewide stallout in Phase Two also means Tech will remain in the second phase of its plan to bring employees back to campus. The goal of Tech’s Phase Two is to “return necessary staff to campus to gradually increase capacity of each department” while still maintaining the 50% building occupancy limit built into the state’s restrictions.

“This decision means little will change at Louisiana Tech in regard to working on campus,” Tech President Les Guice said in an update last week.

Meanwhile, each of the four two-day orientation sessions will take place on Tech’s Moodle online platform on the same dates as previously scheduled. Orientation leaders will still show incoming students the “ins and outs” of attending Tech, and students will still be advised and registered for fall quarter classes.

Freshmen have reportedly already begun receiving emails about the new format and have been placed in chat groups with their orientation leaders.

“While we may not be able to see you next month, we are still planning to welcome students back to Tech for the start of fall quarter in September,” Taylor said.

While first-session and multi-session summer classes have been held exclusively online, Tech still plans to allow select second-session summer courses to take place on campus as a way to test health and safety protocols before the fall quarter. The first summer session ends on July 8, with the second session beginning on July 13.

The exact format of fall courses may depend on what, if any, state and federal restrictions are still in place at that point. But for now, Tech has published some guidelines for what it expects the fall quarter to look like, which is still slated to begin on Sept. 10 as planned.

Course delivery will be a mix of in-person, hybrid and full online platforms, depending on the occupancy requirements in each classroom and whether they can be met in person.

Masks or face coverings will be required in all classrooms, building hallways and shared office spaces.

Occupancy in residence halls will be adjusted to reflect physical distancing, and a special section of housing will be prepared for students who need to quarantine.

Guice posted a message to students on the university’s website Saturday encouraging everyone to wear masks when in public and continue to practice social distancing and hand washing.

“All our actions now will impact Louisiana Tech’s ability to resume classes and do all the other things that make our campus a special place in the fall,” he said.