SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– Although COVID-19 guidelines for the University of Sioux Falls are not set in stone yet, planning for the next school year is underway.
Even prior to the Board of Regents announcement that masks would be optional on public campuses, Brett Bradfield, President of the University of Sioux Falls, had made an informal announcement that the university’s intentions where to open as normally as possible next year.
“We’re planning as we are opening normally next year, and then we are also alongside that working with some contingency planning that would be used if we had to do something due to those kinds of environmental concerns that are around us,” Bradfield said.
They are hoping to return to normal, but there are external factors with the pandemic that will determine this, he said.
At this point, Bradfield says higher education has a few masters that they have to look to, not only their internal policies but also the NCAA for returning to competition, which is a big factor feeding into their student body.
Bradfield says that they had a COVID-19 response meeting this morning to discuss many of the issues surrounding the return to campus next year, and they are putting together a multifaceted plan.
“What we are recognizing right now is that we actually have to kind of address a multitude of things, including co-curricular activities, the classrooms, the instructional delivery systems that we are looking at, but we are optimistic that next year will be considerably better than the year we just navigated,” Bradfield said. “Although we feel good about the manner in which we did it, it was, you know, admittedly labor intensive on many fronts.”
One of the trademarks of USF is that they are very community minded, Bradfield says, and they miss the interaction.
“Our students have been nothing short of phenomenal in helping us with this and we also are seeing it in our facility and staff,” Bradfield said. “There’s a real desire right now for everyone to feel some sense of ability to get back to the culture we embrace here at the University of Sioux Falls, which is sharing, community spirit and learning together, living together and celebrating together.”
Since March 2020, USF began extensive planning for the summer and the current academic year, Bradfield says, which included how they handled their classrooms, making investments in technology to help facilitate four different learning styles to ensure that they could achieve all of their outcomes for prevention of disease outbreaks.
In the fall the university did see two episodes where they saw significant spikes in COVID-19 cases, Bradfield says, but because of the protocol that they put into place, they were able to catch those with contact tracing and tame them down so they could remain operational. They made sure that their students still had access to academics through technology.
Bradfield says it took their COVID response team, which he was part of, that met every morning throughout the summer and through fall. It continues to meet through this spring, although they are just meeting a couple times a week.
They did host a vaccine clinic on campus over a month ago that had good participation, Bradfield says. Many of their students were already vaccinated because of their fields of study. Many faculty and staff had also taken advantage of vaccinations from locations in the community.
Bradfield said the pandemic would have some lasting positive impacts.
“I think someday down the road, when the pandemic is more in our rear-view mirror than it is today, we will probably look back and tell the ‘war stories’ as I call them, but I’ve said this to a number of people, I also believe there’s been some opportunities here to learn in our particular industry that maybe have been accelerated as a result of this,” Bradfield said.
“Some things that maybe change the way we do things in regards to business model, how we serve our students, that may have a long last impact into the future and they are good things,” he said.