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The institute is formulating plans to maintain student safety, but questions remain

COURTESY PHOTO - Oregon Tech, located in Wilsonville and Klamath Falls, will resume in-person classes this fall.

The Oregon Institute of Technology, located in Wilsonville and Klamath Falls, plans to resume in-person classes this fall, according to a news release.

Oregon Tech and other collegiate institutions in Oregon were required to move classes online during spring term and will have to follow guidelines established by Gov. Kate Brown for in-person resumption in the fall. Clackamas County currently is in Phase 1 of reopening, meaning that groups of 25 people or fewer can congregate.

"We know that our students join us in welcoming a return to on-campus teaching and learning in the fall," said Oregon Tech's provost Joanna Mott in the release. "The health of our university community is a top priority, and we are developing reopening plans guided by safe delivery of classes and labs. This includes several scenarios based on the status of virus infection rates and our ability to access COVID-19 testing of students, faculty and staff."

Diane Saunders, OIT's associate vice president of communications and public affairs, said in an interview that Oregon Tech has a particularly low student-to-teacher ratio (15-1), which makes facilitating smaller class sizes easier than it would be at bigger institutions. Still, if the county remains in Phase 1, adjustments will need to be made.

"We definitely have to do a lot of rearrangements. The larger classes we have to split into two and make sure the seating arrangements are within the six-foot distance and that is maintained," Saunders said.

The school also might not be allowed to restart in-person learning, depending on Brown's discretion.

Oregon Tech also is still determining accommodations for students with preexisting conditions who don't feel safe going to in-person classes again, Saunders said.

"We are continuing to look at that. Some classes, there will be that remote option as well. We want to make sure students who need accommodations are provided with (them)," she said.

Saunders also said the school is developing a plan in case a student contracts the disease and said that the availability of testing will be key to making the plan work.

The school will provide students with masks and will place signs on campuses reminding people to maintain their distance.

Oregon Tech will start classes one week earlier (Sept. 21) than normal and allow students to finish the last week of fall term after Thanksgiving, remotely.

"That way, students who have traveled to other parts of the state and country won't be coming back and having one another be exposed to each other as well as faculty and staff," Saunders said.

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