Austin College has unveiled its plans to return students to the classroom and resume in-person classes this fall. On Friday, representatives for the college announce their return plans, which include three attendance options, with two on-campus models, for students resuming their education.


Austin College, like universities, colleges and schools across the state canceled in person classes in March following the COVID-19 pandemic and switched to a remote learning model.


"We’ve looked at the big picture and every little picture we can and especially health and safety concerns — managing people flowing into buildings,wearing masks, setting priorities, caps for rooms labs, all of that," AC Vice President of Student Affairs Tim Millerick said.


Under the return guidelines, students will choose from three options for resuming classes. The first option is what Millerick referred to as full remote where students will not be on campus for the full fall semester.


These students will take all course work, including labs and classes, via synchronous learning and have regularly scheduled classes.


These students will have access to school resources, but only in a remote form.


Through initial surveys, Millerick said he estimated that between 100 and 150 students would fall in this category.


The second option would have students living and attending classes on campus during the fall semester. This would also include approved commuter senior students, who live off campus and attend in person campus.


In addition to attending courses in person, these students will also have access to resources and amenities on campus, including the Dickey Fitness Pavilion, among others.


While on campus, all students will be required to wear a mask indoors or in outdoor areas where social distancing is not possible.


Millerick noted that while this model would primarily focus on in-person classwork, teachers will be utilizing classroom management techniques that could include remote learning. Likewise, some non-classroom space, including outdoor spaces, could be used.


The third and final option would be a hybrid of the two, where students will live on campus, but attend courses remotely. Under this model, students will still have access to on-site resources and amenities.


Millerick said that the spring semester was a learning experience for teachers and the school administration. Through that, they were able to transition many labs and other classes into a remote format. If need be, Millerick said all of the courses could be taught remotely.


"We learned a lot this spring so these things are a lot better than they were this spring," he said.


"We did some virtual things with our labs," Millerick added. "Certainly, that isn’t the best way to do it, but we delivered. We will be doing those in person and virtual as well."


The changes coincide with work and improvements on campus that were built over the summer, school officials said. This includes work in the schools’ cafeteria that promote current best practices during COVID-19.


The cafeteria itself will be spaced out, and a dining space on the second floor that is normally reserved for catering will be used for additional dining space.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.