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Classes begin Aug. 24 at University of Hawaii Maui College

KA‘ANA MANA‘O

Traditionally, July is an exciting month on our campus as we anticipate the start of the fall semester.

We’re certainly looking forward to Fall 2020 but it will look very different from fall semesters past. A tremendous amount of planning has gone into the safe reopening of all 10 University of Hawaii campuses.

President David Lassner announced the interim COVID-19 guidelines earlier this month, emphasizing that the university’s top priorities are the health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty, staff and visitors. The guidelines were developed under guidance issued by local, state and federal authorities with input from UH public health and medical experts. They are subject to change as the university goes through the consultation with unions, state and county leaders and other stakeholder groups. Updates are also expected as government guidance continues to evolve and more is learned about the virus. Of course, the most effective way to keep everyone safe is to follow the oft repeated and now commonly known set of behaviors — stay home if you are sick, wear a face covering that completely and snugly covers your nose and mouth, wash your hands often with soap in warm water for at least 20 seconds, do not gather in groups, and stay at least six feet apart from others when you must interact in person.

You can read the full set of guidelines at www.hawaii.edu/covid19-guidelines/ and please remember that this is a constantly changing situation so the guidelines may be updated before our classes start on Aug. 24.

Maui College has been very proactive over the last months. We established our fall class schedule in May so we would have ample time to design the safest protocols possible after determining how many classes would be online — about 75 percent, it turns out — and how many face-to-face. Our vocational technology students — automotive and carpentry — students in our nursing, dental hygiene, and culinary arts programs will come to campus for at least some of their classes. Our science labs will also take place on campus. And we have a select number of Freshman Learning Communities on campus. These are mostly for recent high school graduates because we believe it is important for those students to have that “on-campus experience.”

Our screening protocols are electronic — everyone who comes onto campus will have a QR code and will undergo a health screening which includes a temperature check. That will happen every single day. Anyone who has any of the COVID-19 symptoms will be asked to go home and contact his or her health care provider. Face-coverings and six-foot social distancing are required at all times. And every area and surface will be disinfected before and after each use. There will be places to wash hands and hand sanitizer will be available in numerous locations.

Our upcoming semester will likely look more like last spring than a normal fall term. We are unlikely to have any walk-in services available. But we will certainly accommodate students by appointment.

We have been working very, very hard. We have practiced these protocols with some of our summer students and with about 200 carpentry, plumbing, electric, and masonry apprenticeship students. On July 1, we called back our staff so they could practice. We felt the more practice we had, the better prepared we would be on Aug. 24. I am confident that our campus is a safe place.

Not surprisingly, enrollment is down about 15 percent. There is still time to enroll. And we now have staff on campus to answer the phone and help you with any questions you may have. I know many graduating high school seniors look forward to a Mainland college experience. But because of the surge of virus there, the vast majority of those classes are likely to be “virtual.” I urge you to consider joining us here at home — at least for your freshman year. We have room in every program. UH Maui College is, right now, the safest place to be.

We believe that at this unprecedented time in our history, our college is more important than ever as the hub of our community and as a resource to help our state recover from the pandemic and forge a better future for our people and our islands.

We encourage you to visit maui.hawaii.edu/programs-of-study/ to see all our program offerings. You’ll find we have something for you!

* Lui K. Hokoana is chancellor of the University of Hawaii Maui College. Ka’ana Mana’o, which means “sharing thoughts,” appears on the fourth Sunday of each month. It is prepared with assistance from UH-Maui College staff and is intended to provide the community of Maui County information about opportunities available through the college at its Kahului campus and its education centers.

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