GVSU acknowledges ‘disruption’ as it plans for fall on campus

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Valley State University is still planning on holding classes on campus this fall, but says the experience will change.

“We know this disruption of COVID is going to be a disruption that’s with us for a while,” GVSU President Philomena Mantella, Ph.D., told roughly 400 people during a virtual town hall Tuesday afternoon.

Mantella said GVSU will likely restrict public events for now to ensure “learning first.”

The university is looking at options to allow students to take as many courses as possible online if they choose, but Mantella says GVSU has “all the tools” to deliver on-campus living and learning this fall while limiting possible exposure to COVID-19 and following federal health guidelines.

“I’m confident that we will mount a face-to-face and residential experience in the fall guided by the best public health information,” Mantella said.

The university president says 85% of student housing is apartment- or suite-style. The average class size is 26 students, with only 1% of classes containing 100 or more students.

“This is I know a time of disruption, but we need to keep people focused on what they can control, which includes learning … and moving forward,” Mantella said.

Greg Sanial, GVSU’s vice president for finance and administration, said the school is looking into installing Plexiglass and floor stickers to aid in social distancing. Sanial said GVSU is fortunate to have newer buildings, so the university can consider increased ventilation, including a possible four-hour air flush of buildings overnight. Enhanced cleaning between classes has also been proposed.

Mantella said while GVSU faces the same challenges as a hotel and restaurant as well as a teaching and research facility, the university’s financial situation is unique, allowing the university more time before determining if any staffing or major infrastructure changes are needed.

“We understand the seriousness of this issue and we understand the uncertainty. So we’re going very deep on planning scenarios that do have structural change that could impact workforce, but we will not make those decisions until it is appropriate to do so,” Mantella said.

Sanial said the university has taking a $13 million hit from the pandemic, but GVSU has been able to absorb it through contingency funding and reserves.

While it’s still uncertain if the pandemic will chill fall enrollment, Mantella said spring and summer enrollment were higher this year than the same time last year.

GVSU said it will continue to hold summer classes exclusively online as it prepares for in-person instruction in the fall.

—News 8’s Emily Linnert contributed to this report.

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