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The Daily Tar Heel

Checking in with the UNC System's reopening plans

Items from a student's dorm sits in a pile outside Hinton James Residence Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Students began to move out of various residence halls on campus after the announcement that all undergraduate classes would be moving online for the Fall 2020 semester.

After a flurry of reported COVID-19 clusters, UNC-Chapel Hill shut down in-person classes and told residential students they need to leave campus. Similarly, N.C. State University announced in an email to students on Thursday that as of Aug. 24, undergraduate in-person classes would be moving online. The school cited the identification of three COVID-19 clusters in two days and infections in Greek life as reasons for the change. 

The decision to shift to remote learning comes only a week after both schools reopened their campuses to thousands of students. 

Katelyn McInerney is a sophomore at N.C. State. She said in an interview just one day prior to N.C. State’s announcement that it would simply be a matter of time before the school follows UNC-CH’s suit and shuts down in-person learning. McInerney, who lives in a dorm, said that she’d already begun considering contingency plans via off-campus housing or subleasing options. 

McInerney is also an out-of-state student from Birmingham, Alabama, and has family members who are at high risk for infection, so going home isn’t necessarily an option.

“We've all been kind of on edge, and that's why I've kind of been trying to scramble together a plan B,” she said. 

Early in the summer, Board of Governors Chairperson Randy Ramsey said the authority to close campuses within the UNC System will remain with the Board of Governors and UNC System President Peter Hans — as opposed to the individual institutions themselves. 

Though some UNC System schools have reopened (and closed) campus in recent weeks, a few institutions haven’t yet started their fall semester. If you’re curious about what UNC System's 16 universities have planned for the fall, here’s what you need to know:

UNC-Chapel Hill: entirely remote

  • Total enrollment: roughly 30,000 
  • Six reported clusters since classes started
  • Chapel Hill, N.C.

UNC-CH’s semester began Aug. 10 and is set to end with the last day of final exams on Nov. 24. The school used a combination of in-person, remote and hybrid instruction prior to transitioning all classes to online learning this week. According to the Carolina Dashboard, UNC-CH has tracked 617 cumulative positive cases since February — 91 reported Wednesday

Appalachian State University: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 20,000 
  • One reported cluster of 11 infections since classes started
  • Boone, N.C.

The semester started Aug. 17 and the last day of exams will be Dec. 9. While the school did not implement mandatory testing, on-campus residential students had the opportunity to receive free testing Aug. 10 to Aug. 15. According to the university’s COVID-19 information website, as of Aug. 20, cumulative positive confirmed cases include: 22 employees, 41 subcontractors and 119 students. 

Eastern Carolina University: entirely remote

  • Total enrollment: roughly 30,000
  • One reported cluster since classes started
  • Greenville, N.C. 

ECU will be moving all undergraduate classes online for the rest of fall semester, starting Aug. 26, and residence halls will begin the move-out process Aug. 30. ECU will offer prorated refunds for campus housing and dining. 

ECU announced in May that the school would be using a block scheduling format for the academic year. The traditional semester has been split into two eight-week blocks, between which students will divide their course load. The semester started Aug. 10 and will conclude after the final day of exams on Nov. 25. As of Aug. 17, the school’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 108 cumulative positive student cases and 17 cumulative positive employee cases. 

Elizabeth City State University: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 2,000
  • Elizabeth City, N.C.

ECSU is one of the UNC System’s five historically Black colleges and universities. ECSU started classes Aug. 11 and is set to end the semester with the last day of exams on Nov. 24. ECSU stated they are expecting full occupancy in on-campus housing as a result of enrollment growth. The school’s COVID-19 reporting website states that the University has a total of four confirmed cases, two of which are employees and two of which are students.  

Fayetteville State University: remote and in-person

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  • Total enrollment: roughly 6,000
  • Fayetteville, N.C.

FSU is also one of the UNC System’s HBCUs. Students started classes Aug. 5. The last final exam is set for Nov. 20. The school stated that prior to the pandemic, 40 percent of classes were online. As of Aug. 17, FSU’s cumulative positive confirmed cases include one employee and four students. 

North Carolina A&T State University: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 13,000
  • Greensboro, N.C.

N.C. A&T — the largest HBCU in the country — started the semester Aug. 19. The final day of exams will be Dec. 11. According to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard, cumulative positive cases since July 1 include 23 students and 11 employees. 

North Carolina Central University: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 8,000
  • Durham, N.C.

NCCU is another of the UNC System’s HBCUs. The first day of classes is set to begin Aug. 24 and final exams will end Nov. 24. According to the school’s tracking website, the total number of positive cases since July 1 includes five students, seven employees and one subcontractor.

N.C. State University: entirely remote

  • Total enrollment: roughly 36,000 
  • Three reported clusters since classes started
  • Raleigh, N.C.

NCSU started classes Aug. 10 and will end the semester with the last day of final exams on Nov. 20. Prior to announcing the shift to all-remote instruction, classes were offered via in-person, online-only and hybrid format. The school’s testing and tracking website states that, since March, 270 students and 41 employees have tested positive. 

UNC Asheville: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 4,000 
  • Asheville, N.C.

Classes started Aug. 10 and the last day of final exams will be Nov. 20. An FAQ page states that rapid testing is not available on campus but the school will continue to monitor and make testing available. UNCA updates their tracking site daily with confirmed cases and states that as of Aug. 21, the number of cumulative positive cases is 10. The school does not make the distinction between employees and students. 

UNC Charlotte: remote and in-person, delayed start 

  • Total enrollment: roughly 30,000 
  • Charlotte, N.C.

UNC-Charlotte is the last school to start their fall 2020 semester, with the first day of classes set for Sept. 7. Classes will remain remote for the three weeks, until the first day of in-person instruction on Oct. 1. 

In a campus message, UNC-C Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber said the additional weeks will allow Mecklenburg County’s infection rate to further stabilize, and that the university is continuing to monitor local conditions every day in case plans need to be adjusted. Gaber also reiterated the importance of abiding by community guidelines, pointing to the threat of social gatherings.

“Unfortunately, we have seen on other university campuses that the actions of just a few people can impact the experience for the majority of others who uphold community standards,” she wrote in the statement. 

So far, UNC-C has reported four COVID-19 cases on main campus, but does not specify whether they are students or staff. 

UNC Greensboro: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 20,000
  • Greensboro, N.C.

UNC-G started their fall semester on Aug. 18 and the last day of final exams is set for Dec. 5. UNC-G’s dashboard separates its reported cases into the number of students, faculty and staff and the number of contractors. Since July 1, the website reports total cumulative positive cases as 10 students, faculty and staff and three contractors — five of the student, faculty and staff cases were reported between Aug. 10 and 16.

UNC Pembroke: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 8,000 
  • Pembroke, N.C.

UNC Pembroke, the state’s sole designated historically American Indian university, started its fall semester on Aug. 5. The last final exam will be held on Nov. 20. Classes are being offered in multiple instructional formats. UNC Pembroke’s website on COVID-19 cases is updated weekly — as of Aug. 20, the cumulative positive cases include 63 students and four employees. 

UNC School of the Arts: remote and in-person 

  • Total enrollment: 1,300 (including high school, undergraduate and graduate students)
  • Winston-Salem, N.C.

Classes for the fall started Aug. 17 and will end Nov. 19. UNCSA plans to use a hybrid instructional format, which will include in-person classes and online experiences. Students and family members were screened for COVID-19 symptoms by staff members when they reached campus. The number of cumulative positive on-campus cases for UNC-SA includes one student and two staff members.

UNC Wilmington: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 17,000 
  • Wilmington, N.C.

Classes at UNC-W started Aug. 19 and the last day of exams will be Dec. 5. The university is offering class via remote, in-person and hybrid formats. UNC-W sent a campus-wide message to its students after UNC-CH’s announcement Aug. 17, stating that the school is closely monitoring campus conditions. UNC-W’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 51 cumulative positive cases since March 15, but does not break down the numbers into students, faculty and staff. Seven positive cases were identified last week.

Western Carolina University: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 12,000
  • Cullowhee, N.C.

WCU’s first day of classes was Aug. 17 and the last day of exams will be Dec. 4. Positive cumulative cases since July 1 include three employees and 31 students. According to WCU’s tracking website, the current daily active new case count, as of Aug. 21, is six students.

Winston-Salem State University: remote and in-person

  • Total enrollment: roughly 5,000 
  • Winston-Salem, N.C.

WSSU, one of the UNC System’s HBCUs, started classes Aug. 17 and the last day of exams is Dec. 2.  WSSU’s dashboard data is updated on a weekly basis and states that totals are not cumulative. As of Aug. 19, WSSU reported two faculty and staff positive cases and one positive student case.