Texas A&M announces more online offerings, classroom capacity caps and daily cleaning schedules for fall return

Texas A&M University announced on Tuesday its plans to navigate school instruction for the fall semester. Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune

With universities and colleges continuing to navigate teaching in a pandemic, Texas A&M University announced on Tuesday that half of its classes will be taught exclusively online.

In a letter to the A&M community, provost and executive vice president Carol Fierke said the university was working to “maximize” the number of classes with at least one face-to-face meeting with an instructor each week and that almost half of classes would be available through an in-person format. But safely hosting students for the fall semester will lead to a series of adjustments.

All in-person classes will be available remotely to students who do not return to campus in the fall — a change that has prompted a widespread installation of cameras, microphones and other equipment to bring classrooms online.

A&M will limit its course schedule to weekdays, and more classes will be scheduled for later in the day. This comes after Texas A&M officials floated the possibility of holding Saturday classes to spread students out.

Students who do return to campus in the fall will be provided 30-minute “passing periods” in between classes to space out foot traffic, and the school plans to implement classroom cleaning periods at noon each day. In her letter, Fierke said this could lead to rescheduling of some courses but indicated the university is still "mapping" out those changes. To maintain social distancing, classrooms will be limited to 33% to 40% capacity.

The changes come after university officials were forced to scramble to transition to remote learning midway through the spring semester after the new coronavirus reached Texas. The guidelines echo some of those announced by the University of Texas at Austin where classroom capacity will also be limited, courses will be spread out to reduce the number of students on campus and many courses will be offered exclusively online.

The university previously announced that classes would begin three days earlier and that final exams would be moved online after the Thanksgiving break. Students, faculty and staff will be required to wear face masks in campus buildings. A&M officials also previously indicated residence halls would reopen, with students expected to maintain social distancing as much as possible and with designated spaces in residence halls for students to use as they quarantine themselves.