Advisory groups leading fall planning, April 27

University of Maine System Chancellor Dan Malloy’s April 27 message included information about two advisory groups essential to helping UMS campuses plan to resume safe and as-normal-as-possible operations in the fall.

The Fall 2020 Safe Return Planning Committee is co-led by Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Robert Placido and Chief General Services Officer Chip Gavin, Members represent each university’s key constituencies (HR, IT, student life, security, academic affairs, etc.) and are engaged in scenario planning for reopening in the fall. A chief consideration is what modes of instruction will be possible and, most importantly, safe in the dynamic and ever-changing public health environment. The Chancellor has asked Presidents and Chief Academic Officers to brainstorm a number of approaches for fall courses and scheduling, including eight-week blocks; hybrid courses with in-person for the first few weeks and online following that; project-based learning approaches with options for remote work; class size adjustments; and other ideas. The main goal is to develop plans with multiple flexible options for both students and faculty.

A related element of the preparedness work is a Scientific Advisory Board, established with a charge to discuss science-based approaches to safely welcome students, faculty, staff and the public back to our universities. According to Chancellor Malloy: “I expect that UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy will have the overall lead of the effort, with convening support from Chip Gavin. With the hope to include public health experts from USM as well, UMaine professors Melissa Maginnis, assistant professor of microbiology; Kristy Townsend, associate professor of neurobiology; Caitlin Howell, assistant professor of bioengineering; and Rob Wheeler, associate professor of microbiology, will be the core scientific members of the advisory group.” The team members will be “(compiling) briefing materials, reading scientific literature daily, conducting their own research, and conferring with scientific colleagues around the world.” They also will be reviewing progress on vaccines and antivirals, and current policies, and discussing the possibility of expanding testing  — COVID-19 diagnostic or serology (antibody) testing — for the state of Maine, including students and other community members.