Central Washington University's Student Union and Recreation Center has a sign to remind students to do a required daily self health check before coming to campus at the start of fall quarter in 2020 in Ellensburg. The university is planning for a more comprehensive return to campus for students in fall of  2021.

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Central Washington University is planning to return to a somewhat normal fall quarter, although there are a variety of factors that could change the plan.

CWU Provost Michelle DenBeste said at the Board of Trustees meeting Feb. 25, the current plan is more of an assumption of what the university will look like.

“I have been besieged with questions about, ‘no but really what will fall look like?’” DenBeste said. “My crystal ball is not currently operating, but based on what we know about the science right now, based on our work with our state and local health officials, we feel really, really fortunate to have Dr. (Mark) Larson as our community liaison. He has been giving us his time and his knowledge, and so we feel pretty well positioned to think about fall. But we also know that, as was true this year, we may have to pivot if any of these things turn out to not be true, or turn out to change.”

It is assumed most students will have been given the coronavirus vaccine by the start of the fall term. It’s also assumed social distancing guidelines will be relaxed, although students will still likely be required to wear masks for most, if not all, of the first quarter. Perhaps even into winter.

The “new normal” will involve a push back to in-person classrooms and learning. However, hybrid classes will still be offered and, it’s assumed, will remain a popular choice among students and staff. DenBeste said online courses will also continue, and they are making sure a student can earn a degree from CWU entirely online.

“The standard in-person classes, we hope we will be back to,” DenBeste said. “But we are finding that hybrid courses are much more popular with both the students and with faculty. We think there will likely be more of those than we have had in the past, and that in fact that’s probably a good thing.”

Different classroom options/modalities will continue to be offered. DenBeste said CWU has learned from the pandemic, and is making changes to course descriptions so they will clearly state what type of modality they are.

“The goal of the modality descriptions is to ensure that when a student signs up for a class they know what they are getting into. Will it be online? Will there be set meeting times? Will the course be partly in-person? Will it be entirely in-person? We hope that students can thereby choose the modality that works best for them,” DenBeste said.

According to a news release from the university, the fall plan calls for adopting a normal academic schedule for the quarter, which would be from Sept. 22 to Dec. 10, and a return to campus for most students, faculty, and staff. Residence halls will be at near-normal capacity with Munson Hall retained as quarantine space.

“The health and safety of the university community must come first,” CWU President James L. Gaudino said in the release. “While we are hopeful for a near-normal academic year in 2021-2022, we also understand the need to constantly assess our health-and-safety protocols.”


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