Like other institutions around the country, two Oregon universities have announced plans to shift back to remote learning for the fall to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“I know many of you have been looking forward to a return to in-person class instruction this fall,” UO President Michael Schill said in a video posted Wednesday. “Your professors and I had the same hope.”

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But that won’t happen for most classes – for now. Labs and other small courses will be held-in person, but for the most part, UO classes will be online.

Schill said many factors led to the decision, including conversations with students and staff, public health guidance from the state, and lessons from other states and colleges.

“Another factor was that many of the local K-12 school districts announced plans to be 100 percent online through the end of the calendar year, which makes it exceedingly difficult for a large portion of our faculty and staff to be on campus,” Schill included in his letter to the campus community.

Western Oregon University announced its decision Tuesday.

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“We’ve seen in the news that universities that have opened with in-person classes have been forced to reverse course as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks,” WOU President Rex Fuller said in a press release.

“The safety of our students, employees and community is our priority. We’ve done a great deal of work and preparation since spring term, and we are eager to provide students with personalized support while helping them reach their educational goals in our environment as it stands.”

Administrators running Oregon’s universities hoped for in-person instruction in the fall, but after continued COVID-19 cases and cautionary tales from other institutions, most public universities now plan to start the fall online.

Both UO and WOU promised to create some kind of on-campus experience, despite health and safety protocols designed to keep students in small groups. Dining and residence halls will remain open, with physical distancing in place.

Universities around Oregon have asked students to commit to creating a campus “bubble” to limit chance of exposure to COVID-19, including restrictions on nonessential travel and “high-risk behaviors.” Keeping campus COVID-free has been at odds with student behaviors at other universities.

Willamette Week reported earlier this week that, unlike other universities in the state, UO requires students to pay for room and board for the whole year.

Freshman living on campus at UO will be tested for COVID-19 at check-in, several days afterward, and “periodically throughout the term”.

Tuition will remain the same at both schools.

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