Return to Learn Update for Spring 2021

As new and previous students are welcomed back to campus, UC San Diego has released their Return to Learn plan for Spring 2021. Because of the success of their strategies in previous quarters –– leaving UCSD’s COVID-19 positivity rates far below state average with 350 cases in on-campus residents since March 1, 2020 –– the plan for Spring Quarter 2021 incorporates many of the same procedures as well as others that will accommodate for the inclusion of in-person classes. The plan also accommodates for the increase in campus-housed students and includes modifications to the current asymptomatic self-testing system in place on campus.

On March 16, public health orders made it possible for higher education institutions to resume limited indoor instruction. According to UCSD’s Assistant Director of Communications, Erika Johnson, 176 class sections (1.6 percent of all classes) are scheduled for in-person instruction with an emphasis on smaller lab sections and fewer large lectures. Approximately 1,900 students (5.5 percent of the student population) are registered for in-person classes. Advising meetings, office hours, and other meetings and activities must still be held remotely. Outdoor classroom occupancy will be capped at 50 to 75 students and indoor occupancy will remain at 25 percent classroom capacity or fewer than 50 students, depending on which is less. 

“Each instructor had the opportunity to choose the teaching modality best for their individual class, and each student had the opportunity to choose whether to register for remote or in-person options. If a student has chosen an in-person option, an instructor may require attendance, with appropriate accommodations made for illness or other unforeseen needs,” Johnson said.

In-person classes will observe the same requirements already in place for campus activities, including the usage of face coverings and socially distanced seating. All students and employees reporting to campus or any physical UCSD location will be required to continue daily self-screening and weekly testing. Students and employees are required to conduct a covid test every five to nine days, even if vaccinated.

UCSD plans to return to primarily in-person classes by Fall 2021. Information for these anticipated plans will be released in the coming weeks.

On-site research activities that have already been approved will continue at current levels. Instead of density limitations based on square feet or people per bay/aisle, 25 percent of total personnel may work on-site at any one time. The Spring 2021 Plan released by UCSD makes it very clear that if students would like to further their education through approved on-site learning, they may do so, however, they should not be pressured in any way.

Undergraduate residents of UCSD will continue to be required to conduct asymptomatic testing once a week, despite vaccination status, and will also need to continue self-screening every day. On-campus housing will remain at single occupancy throughout the Spring Quarter.

For prospective or incoming students, guided in-person tours will not be available during Spring 2021. However, prospective students and their families are encouraged to participate in live virtual tours or in self-guided tours with maps provided online.

At the beginning of Winter Quarter 2021, Covid Test Vending machines were introduced, making weekly testing more accessible. Soon, these vending machines will require students and campus employees to swipe their campus ID cards when picking up a self-administered covid test to validate that the individual is a campus member as well as manage testing and compliance. A charge of $1 will be made to the person’s account, but will immediately be returned within 24 hours, as these test kits will remain free. 

By April 15, all adults over the age of 16 will be eligible for vaccination in the state of California. Students and staff who are eligible are encouraged to “seek the most immediate vaccination opportunity that arrives,” UCSD’s Return to Learn webpage states. Eligible members of the UCSD community should register on the California MyTurn website or check the CDC’s VaccineFinder website for desired appointment times.

“Our Return to Learn plan and safety protocols will continue to evolve based on public health conditions, what we learn through practice and what our predictive models tell us,” Johnson stated.

Photo courtesy of Siddharth Atre for The UCSD Guardian.

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