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story.lead_photo.caption Westminster College and William Woods University will reopen to students this August. The two are developing health measures and safety plans for students and faculty alike. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

Westminster College and William Woods University are planning on returning to in-person classes this fall.

Though August may seem to be an eternity away, both colleges are already devising safety measures to protect students, staff and faculty.

On Wednesday, WWU announced the fall semester will begin Aug. 24, as scheduled.

The announcement comes during the week when William Woods began a phased return to campus for a portion of its faculty and staff, following the order of Gov. Mike Parson to reopen the state of Missouri. It was the first in a series of steps toward having the university operating at full capacity for the fall semester, college spokesperson John Fougere said.

"Our priority and commitment are to provide our students with a safe living and learning experience on campus for the fall semester," WWU President Jahnae Barnett. "We have every expectation for William Woods University to be open for in-person classes and co-curricular activities in August."

Westminster announced in late April the campus will be opened Aug. 8 for a delayed commencement for 2020 graduates, while freshman dormitories will open Aug. 15 for New Student Days. Classes begin Aug. 20. The college has launched a COVID-19 Task Force led by Dr. Kasi Lacey, dean of Student Life.

"Although Westminster made a quick, seamless transition to sudden online learning this spring, I am confident that our students can expect to physically be back on our beautiful campus after the summer," Westminster President Fletch Lamkin said. "Our COVID-19 task force is working diligently to make sure this happens while ensuring the health and safety of everyone at the college."

Westminster staff members will start trickling back onto campus May 18, though some will continue to work remotely, Lamkin said.

Both colleges mentioned plans to aggressively clean and sanitize their campuses.

They also encourage and enable students to maintain social distancing. WWU intends to schedule classes in rooms large enough for students to sit 6-8 feet apart.

Westminster plans to install extra hand-sanitizer stations around campus. Both colleges hope to ensure the availability of health care and COVID-19 screening to students. They also plan to stay up-to-date on the latest recommendations from local, state and federal authorities.

WWU and Westminster relied on online courses for the latter half of spring semester, and it seems online classes will play a role in the fall semester as well.

William Woods plans to make all coursework available online, in addition to in-person classes, to "maximize flexibility of delivery for each course and provide convenience for students who are temporarily unable to attend class in person for a period of time."

Westminster is still evaluating its academic offerings and plans to offer hybrid (online plus in-person) and online options, Lacey said.

"We are committed to continuing to be transparent and regularly communicate with our faculty, staff, students, and Westminster community as we are in this together," she added.

Follow each college's latest COVID-19 related updates at for Westminster and for William Woods.

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