CBU details plans for hybrid return, with in-person class when possible

By , Daily Memphian Updated: July 23, 2020 5:36 PM CT | Published: July 23, 2020 3:34 PM CT

Christian Brothers University intends to reopen with a hybrid of online and in-person classes, starting in mid-August.

Dorms will be single occupancy; campus leaders are making arrangements for off-campus housing for hundreds of others.

The first priority for its 500 dorm beds will go to international students, those who live far from campus and students with extenuating circumstances, including housing insecurity.

While it will try to offer in-person instruction when possible, CBU is giving priority to its health and engineering programs, and others that have lab sessions and a structure that benefits from in-person teaching.

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CBU President Jack Shannon updated the campus community on the plans on its YouTube channel Thursday afternoon, July 23.

“Regrettably, we’re not going to be able to accommodate everyone who expressed a desire to live on campus, but we’re going to work fairly and equitably to provide accommodations to as many students as possible,” he said Thursday, hoping to accommodate everyone who lives 35 miles away and many who live closer.

The university is working to identify apartments in the city for the others.

Based on early numbers, about 400 freshmen and transfer students have confirmed they will return, which is about 90% of a normal year.

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“Our retention numbers seem to be trending as well in a positive direction,” Shannon said.

“We don’t know yet and we’ve got a lot of ifs and things to get through before we get the final census, but currently, we’re on track to be having a good year.”

Students who must be quarantined and have no place to go will stay in temporary quarters at the University of Memphis in a deal being finalized now.

“Dr. (David) Rudd (U of M president) was very gracious in offering that resource.”

CBU has also made arrangements with Poplar Healthcare to quickly run testing analysis. It has procured 500 test kits to have on campus so it can immediately test for coronavirus and begin contract tracing.

“I’m pleased to say that students from our P.A. (physician’s assistant) program as well as nursing program will be working as part of that tracking and tracing effort,” Shannon said. “It doesn’t require them to be off campus or beyond their homes. It’s done by WebEx, as well as telephone, and I think that will be an invaluable public health experience as well.”

The students will be paid for their work.

In polling CBU did of faculty in the last several weeks, less than 15% requested remote schedules.

CBU has 110 full-time faculty.

“We are working with them to be able to have them teach their courses online or remotely, and we will make sure that our students have a high-quality education,” Shannon said.

Summer has been a flurry of elaborate planning on college campuses and immediate about-faces as leaders revise plans in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases and taxed hospital capacity.

Rhodes College, which planned to return to campus in August for hybrid instruction, said last week that would no longer be possible. It will offer online instruction only.

On Wednesday, July 22, LeMoyne-Owen College said it would open for virtual classes Aug. 12, with the hope of returning to in-person instruction after Labor Day.

The University of Memphis still plans to open with a hybrid schedule.

In late May, CBU announced it would start a week earlier and conclude classes before Thanksgiving when officials believe the influenza season could compromise the already-taxed hospital space.

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To meet the higher demands for health care, CBU is expanding its campus nursing services with a mobile unit located next to the Thomas Center. The extended health offerings will include mental health services and expanded telehealth options.

Besides daily checks to enter campus, social distancing and masking, CBU is also retooling food services, offering more pre-packaged meals, creating more dining spaces and setting up schedules for when students and staff may enter the dining hall to alleviate lines.

Luiz Paulo, a CBU student from Brazil who stayed this summer hoping his internship would come through at Smith+Nephew, is happy CBU is staying the course to return to campus.

“I think it’s a good plan. It’s a try to go back to normal,” he said.

He is sure it will please some families and disappoint others.

His sister, also a CBU student, is planning to return to campus from Brazil for the start of school. She will have to quarantine 14 days in Canada or Mexico before entering the United States.

For students who cannot return, Shannon says CBU has promised to work with them to get the classes they need so graduation is not delayed.

Part of the decision to return, Shannon said, are findings about the needs of underserved students in these times, who likely will be hit hardest as far as their education in the pandemic.

Many of CBU’s students are the first in their families to attend college or they come from low- to moderate-income homes.

“If they don’t enroll or if they are not fully engaged in their academic studies, they are more likely than other students to drop out. If they drop out, they’re not likely to return,” he said.

Spain Auditorium, CBU’s largest space, will be used to teach physician assistant classes from the stage. The space, large enough for 175, will have a maximum capacity now of 40.

“We’re fortunate at CBU that we don’t have a large number of classes that are large-lecture format,” Shannon said. “As a matter of fact, most of our courses are below 20 students, and many of them are 12 and below. We can easily accommodate those within our existing facilities.”


Jack Shannon CBU Rhodes College University of Memphis LeMoyne-Owen College Breaking news
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 business news and features for The Daily Memphian.


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