ARLINGTON, Texas — Colleges and universities across Texas are preparing to start the school year. Many have options of online and in-person classes, or a hybrid of both.
The Texas Faculty Association wrote a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday, urging him to delay in-person start dates to Sept. 8 for all state-supported universities, community colleges and private universities.
"The request to the governor is to mandate that universities begin online," said Pat Heintzelman, president of the TFA and an instructor at Lamar University Beaumont.
Heintzelman said pushing face-to-face learning until after Labor Day will allow schools and faculty to better prepare to bring students on campus.
At the University of Texas Arlington, school is starting as planned on Aug. 26. But Dr. Pranesh Aswath, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, knows their plans can change quickly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When we started the planning process, we said flexibility should be rule number one," he said.
Dr. Aswath said those attending face-to-face classes will be required to wear masks. Classrooms will be spaced out for social distancing, holding only 25 to 34% capacity.
UT Arlington also has COVID-19 testing on campus and an isolation dorm if someone gets sick. Strategies in the cafeterias have also been changed.
"If a student is exposed or showing symptoms, we are able to do the testing on campus and give them the results right away," he said.
Dr. Aswath feels ready to start school in-person, but he is also ready to change plans according to state mandates and CDC recommendations.
"The number one priority is health and safety," he said.
Heintzelman said Gov. Abbot has not responded to the letter yet. She is also waiting for a response from another letter the TFA sent last week requesting the governor to mandate Texas colleges to enforce the mask executive order.