Planning for Fall 21: In-person Classes and Activities (Faculty & Staff Message)

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor
Friday, February 26, 2021, 3:04 p.m.
KU Lawrence All Staff, Faculty and Affiliates KU Graduate Teaching Assistants KU Graduate Research Assistants KU Graduate Assistants

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes.

Dear Staff, Faculty, GTAs, GRAs and GAs

We’ve reached the point in our year that prospective students and continuing students make plans for the coming fall. It’s important we let them know we are planning a return to – as much as possible – in-person instruction and service this fall. Instructors and scheduling officers should plan on in-person instruction for courses that had been in-person prior to the pandemic.

There are many factors that may affect this plan, such as vaccination roll-out and efficacy, variants, and possible surges in infections, and we’ll continue to watch conditions and keep you informed should our teams advise caution. In our Lawrence and Edwards campuses classrooms and workspaces, we’ve been successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19 through masking, attention to air flow in buildings and classrooms, physical distancing, and enhanced disinfection and cleaning measures. We have significant classroom scheduling capacity available to meet instructional needs in a safer manner. To help keep campus density low throughout the day we will use the full set of options – scheduling classes earlier and later in the day and using the full week more than we typically have in recent years. These guidelines will shape our fall plans:

  • The Pandemic Medical Advisory Team is developing recommendations for infection prevention and control measures for reducing risk while operating at, or close to, our typical capacity level for in-person classes. 
  • As always, the Pandemic Medical Advisory Team will continue to monitor the evolution of the virus including variants, prevalence, vaccination rates, deaths and hospitalizations, and modify recommendations as needed as we approach the fall 2021 semester. 
  • We will continue to monitor CDC, state and local recommendations and collaborate with our local health departments.
  • We will always strive to accommodate faculty and staff whose health and family needs require they continue to work remotely. Faculty requests to teach courses remotely will need their dean’s approval. Unit leaders will be working with staff over the next several months to determine what staffing level should be for in-person operations.
  • We will continue to offer mitigation arrangements and services to those who work on campus, but who desire additional protective measures.
  • As in the current semester, students can work with advisors and their departments to seek course adaptations for some classes and under limited conditions.

Faculty and staff working with current and prospective students should let them know we are preparing for a renewed residential experience on our Lawrence campus. At this time, we anticipate our fall semester calendar will be more typical, with fall break, Thanksgiving break, Stop Day and an in-person finals week. KU Student Housing continues to be open, and is presently offering contracts to current students and incoming students. Orientation will offer both in-person and online options this summer. KU staff members are working continuously and closely with health and safety officials and partners in the region and the state to facilitate vaccine distribution, especially for members of the KU community.

Instructors, please know fall 2021 will look different from fall 2019. The Office of University Registrar will provide direct guidance for instructors on Monday. To follow health and safety guidelines, you may be scheduled to teach your class in a different room or building. As spacing guidelines are eased, we will be able to return to more familiar accommodations in future semesters.

We will be back in touch with an updated outlook at the end of March and before the start of enrollment for the fall semester.

Thank you for all your work and support you provide students. The pandemic has been hard in so many ways, and I appreciate your perseverance. Please stay safe and follow all protective measures, even if you’ve already been vaccinated.



Barbara A Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor