In-Person Instruction Begins At NAU After Starting Classes Virtually

By Rocio Hernandez
Published: Monday, August 31, 2020 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, August 31, 2020 - 9:50am

Northern Arizona University started its fall semester earlier this month with mostly virtual classes, but starting Monday it will offer more in-person instruction. This comes after some colleges across the country have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks among their campus community leading schools such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to suspend in person classes. 

NAU President Rita Cheng said the university will monitor the infection rate in Flagstaff, its infection rate on campus by testing students and employees and local hospitalization rates, but did not say whether NAU has established benchmarks that dictate whether it should shut down its campus again or what benchmarks are. 

"It's really about not whether we can get rid of the infection, but can we manage the infection rate on campus and can we dampen down with our strategy," Cheng said.  

Classrooms are equipped with technology to allow some students to come in person on some days while others join in remotely. Cheng said that technology will also come in handy if NAU sees a potential outbreak and needs to turn to more remote instruction while things cool down. 

NAU will test about 2,500 students, faculty and staff each week throughout the fall semester as part of its mitigation strategy.  

“We’ll also be able to direct testing to various parts of campus if we see a cluster of activity coming," she said. 

NAU hasn't published its COVID-19 data publicly, but Cheng said since March, the university has had a total of 19 coronavirus cases on campus involving mostly asymptomatic students. It currently has four active cases on campus and three self-reported cases from students who live off campus. The four on-campus students are in isolation. 

“They’re being delivered food. We have telehealth and telecounseling for them," Cheng said. "They’re using the Zoom technology to continue their studies.” 

NAU has set aside several hundred isolation rooms on campus, Cheng said. The university also has contracts with local hotels and partnerships with private apartment complexes. The hotel rooms are available for students who need to quarantine while they are waiting for their test results, she said. 

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