Testing, virtual events mark start of EOU fall term

LA GRANDE – Eastern Oregon University students and employees will gather virtually for traditional back-to-school events this month. 

Employees return via videoconference for the university’s annual Convocation ceremony on Sept. 16, and incoming students will participate in virtual orientation events starting Sept. 19. 

 A key element of EOU’s fall term plans is COVID-19 testing of all students returning to the La Grande campus before they attend classes in person. 

“In order to facilitate COVID-19 testing for all students on campus, all classes will be held remotely for the first week of the Fall Term, and Week of Welcome events will be held virtually,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Lacy Karpilo. “In-person classes and Week of Welcome events will return to modified operations after test results have been evaluated.”

Along with student testing, the university has instituted a set of requirements for all members of the university community. These include daily online self health checks, wearing face coverings inside all buildings, and physical distancing procedures. All students are also encouraged to take enhanced precautions or self-isolate for 14 days prior to arriving on campus, and two cloth face masks will be provided to each on-campus employee and student.

 In-person classes will be held on campus until Thanksgiving and then students will complete the last week of classes and finals week remotely. Residence Halls will remain open during Winter Break, and students living on campus are encouraged to stay. 

 “At this time, approximately 48% of courses will be held in-person, 17% will be hybrid, and 35% will be remote,” EOU President Tom Insko said. “College deans and faculty have worked to ensure educational quality while mitigating risk when making modality determinations. Some students may not have any in-person or hybrid courses, allowing them to consider not relocating to La Grande for Fall Term.”

 Insko pointed to the university’s guiding themes for resumption of on-campus activities and classes: safety, wellness, equity, collaboration, flexibility and innovation. 

 “We are actively preparing for a student-engaging academic year, consistent with our institutional mission and state public health guidelines for Oregon Higher Education,” he said. “Ultimately, our mission calls us back to campus. But, no single path or solution will meet the needs of all, so our guiding themes provide the necessary balance for effective resumption.”

 All of EOU’s online courses will continue as usual, offering a wide range of degrees and courses with personalized advising and support. On-site programs and Regional Centers will follow the plans and guidelines laid out by their host sites.

Numerous modifications in campus facilities have already been implemented to ensure a safe working and learning environment, including plexiglass barriers and Insko said EOU will endeavor to accommodate needs as they arise. Some employees may continue to work remotely to protect against interruption in services. 

 Meanwhile, staff has coordinated to provide student support services like tutoring, career and internship help, financial aid, and the library so students can access resources remotely and in-person with safety measures. Karpilo said student clubs, cultural events and campus life remain a central part of the EOU experience, though they may look different this fall. 

 “Access, equity and affordability are at the core of EOU’s mission,” Karpilo said. “Many of our students are facing added financial hardship and dealing with the challenges of inequitable healthcare.” 

 EOU plans to conduct COVID-19 screenings for all incoming residential students, student-athletes and students intending to be on campus. These tests are self-administered, gentle lower nasal swabs (RT-PCR based tests) and will be used to screen students prior to the start of the term. 

 Test results will be returned within 24-72 hours. All students who have been tested will be quarantined until test results are returned. Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be immediately moved to an isolation room if on-campus or asked to isolate at their off-campus location. Students who test negative will be allowed to leave quarantine. 

 Residential students will be provided with meal delivery, and the university will offer a series of virtual events and activities for all students in quarantine.

 “This year will be like no other for the EOU community as we work to adapt and respond to the dynamic environment created by COVID-19,” Insko said. “Society teaches us to individually control our world and our destinies, but this pandemic reminds us how interdependent we really are—our wellness and educational achievement are inextricably linked to our shared behaviors and collective ability to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

 Virtual Chat Rooms for students and employees continue to answer questions and provide a forum for direct communication, university leaders continue to seek input from all members of the campus community. 

Visit EOU’s Resumption Planning website or for more information about the university’s plans for fall term.