U of M opens more classes, expects 3,700 students back on Monday

By , Daily Memphian Updated: September 29, 2020 5:04 PM CT | Published: September 29, 2020 12:05 PM CT

The University of Memphis will scale up its campus population Monday, Oct. 5, with the voluntary return of some students.

Students invited back will include those who were approved for voluntary return in mid-September, but that return was delayed after two COVID-19 clusters were discovered, involving 36 students.

“Some 375 sections of our courses will be returning,” said Tom Nenon, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.

“For context, we offer a total of about 5,000 sections each fall, of which around 3,700 are normally on-ground,” he said in an email. 

The university expects about 3,700 additional students will return on Monday.

“Of course, some of these students will be in more than one of those sections and some of these sections will have to meet in a hybrid mode – only half of the students attending on a given day.

“This means we will have about 4,000 students who have some on-ground component to their classes,” Nenon said. “That is about 15% of what it would have normally been at a given time in the fall of 2019.”

In the last two weeks, the university has called nearly 50% of staff who had been working at home. It is rotating schedules to provide social distancing.

“We have worked to create and maintain a safe learning and working environment for all of our students, faculty and staff on our campus,” the university said. “We have invested significant resources in preparing our facilities for a safe return of a greater density and have had over 1,800 students in our residence life facilities since the beginning of the semester with minimal issues.”

Tuesday morning, freshman Matthew McMeans had not received word that any of his classes had been approved for return.

“Starting out online wasn’t ideal. Being able to go to certain classes, actually in-class this time, would be great,” McMeans said. “I feel like I would be able to learn a lot easier and get a lot more things done while I’m active.”

It has already been determined that some classes in his schedule will remain online for the rest of the semester.

U of M lays off staff within athletic department

“I may have one or two that are letting us back in class because they are smaller class sizes,” he said.

According to the most recent information on its website, the university has 36 active COVID-19 cases among students; 31 of its 89 quarantine rooms are full. A total of six cases, all among students, were contracted on campus.

The university and the Shelby County Health Department are monitoring 102 active exposures, including 22 among staff. The data was last updated Sept. 23.

The university initially planned to resume in-person classes in mid-August. It first deferred those plans until Sept. 14, and then postponed them again, saying it would review disease data in early October, at the earliest.

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University of Memphis Matthew McMeans Tom Nenon
Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

Longtime journalist Jane Roberts is a Minnesotan by birth and a Memphian by choice. She's lived and reported in the city more than two decades. She covers healthcare and higher education for The Daily Memphian.


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