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Texas State University plans for a "very robust in-person experience” for the fall semester as COVID-19 cases increase across Hays County and Texas. Pictured above and below, Texas State students and their parents arrive to campus to prepare for the upcoming semester. Daily Record photos by Gerald Castillo

Texas State University moves ahead with plans for 'very robust in-person experience' for fall semester

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Texas State University officials are moving ahead with plans for a “very robust in-person experience” for students with classes beginning next week, despite an increase in COVID-19 cases across the state spurred by the Delta variant. 

University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Gene Bourgeois said Texas State has been preparing for the beginning of the semester with an estimated 87% of classes featuring a face-to-face component. 

“We have long been preparing for a beginning of a semester, fall semester, at Texas State University to have basically a very robust in-person experience for our students in the classrooms and outside of the classrooms in their co and extracurricular activities,” Bourgeois said during a press conference Thursday. “We’ve been diligent in preparing for a safe return of our faculty, staff and students for this beginning of the fall semester.” 

He added that the university believes “everything is in shape for 100% capacity for classes, buses and other venues, events and meetings.”

The beginning of Texas State’s fall semester comes amid an increase in COVID-19 cases in Hays County. Active coronavirus cases have increased more than 11 fold in Hays County since the beginning of July. There are currently 2,243 active COVID-19 cases in the county, and 751 in San Marcos. 

At Texas State University, there are 102 active coronavirus cases. The university has recorded 115 among students and 37 cases among faculty and staff since Aug. 1. 

“I think the question that many are asking right now is: can we provide a safe learning environment for our students? And I think that the answer to that is yes,” University Chief Medical Officer Dr. Emilio Carranco said, highlighting Texas State’s 12 safety guidelines developed. Those guidelines include getting vaccinated, practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, handwashing and getting tested. “Those health and safety guidelines were developed to help folks be safe while they were on our campus … And I can report that using those 12 health and safety measures was very successful for us. We were able to have in-person teaching last fall and spring without any outbreaks on our campus. So, we can do it.” 

Carranco said the university would emphasize four of those 12 safety measures amid the current COVID-19 surge, including vaccination, wearing face masks indoors and outdoors in crowded settings, frequent testing and screening for COVID-19 and reporting cases to Bobcat Trace — the university’s contact tracing system. 

“We know that if we all adhere to health and safety measures, we can have a safe learning environment,” Carranco said. “And so, the university has done its part. We’re ready. I think if everybody else does their part, we can be safe and we can have a successful fall semester.” 

Texas State, however, will not be able to provide incentives for vaccination after receiving guidance from the university system’s Office of General Counsel. “That guidance that came back said that as a state agency per their understanding of the governor’s executive order that we would not be allowed to do incentives for vaccinations,” Bourgeois said. 

Carranco added, however, that the university would be conducting mass vaccination clinics during the fall semester with one taking place Friday aimed at first-year students.  

While other universities in Texas have decided to begin classes virtually for the start of the semester, Bourgeois said faculty will have discretion to offer online Zoom sessions during the semester. He added that at least 39 hours out of 45 class hours must be done in person. 

“Faculty, historically, have possibly Zoomed a class or they’ve had students do assignments without actually being in person in that class,” Bourgeois said. “So, in that respect, actually, I think Texas State University has afforded faculty the flexibility of figuring out how they want to start the semester, or how they wish to maybe start the semester and then after one or two or three weeks decide that they want to pivot and do something a little bit differently for the third or fourth week, that’s their choice and their discretion.” 

Students have started returning to campus with dorm check-in taking place over last weekend. The university required students checking into dorms to test for COVID-19. Vice President for Student Affairs Cynthia Hernandez said a majority of 6,000 students that checked into the university’s dorms provided negative test results. Approximately, 1,468 students were tested when they arrived on campus with only 16 positive results.  

“We felt those numbers,” Hernandez said.” It was a good check-in process, and the students are really excited to be here. They’re starting their Bobcat Preview, which is our welcome week here at Texas State and we’ve been seeing some good engagement in those activities.” 

Bourgeois said he expects a record freshman class this year. Texas State set a new record of 5,855 freshmen in 2019. The university expects enrollment to remain similar to last year’s student population of around 38,000. 

Texas State’s fall semester begins on Monday. 

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