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University System of Maryland panel to work on timeline for possible fall reopening

University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay Perman announced Monday that he is forming an advisory group to help set a potential date for students to return to campus ― and plan for what steps need to happen before then.

On a conference call with other board members, Perman said it’s time to shift planning for the fall semester now that university officials have decided the first summer session will be conducted online during the continuing coronavirus pandemic. His first priority is establishing a date for students to return to campus.

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The chancellor said the advisory group will determine the date and then outline steps and timeline for what it would take to get there before students return. The timeline would be contingent upon state and federal guidance, but Perman said it’s imperative to begin planning because it will be a lengthy process as it may require adapting campuses and classrooms.

“This is not a switch we can simply flip," Perman said. “It’s a return to campus not just for students but for everything else making it possible. And how our universities meet the conditions will vary from campus to campus.”

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The advisory board will be composed of various intuitions leaders from several departments, including academic affairs, finance, enrollment and student life, Perman said. Perman said he is looking for administrators with “on the ground experience” managing complex situations. To keep the direct advisory board small, Perman said those members will then convene their own smaller groups to help make decisions.

Perman said the advisory board will take into account the 12 schools included in the university system and their various needs.

“We are going into this process highly cognizant of the fact that our universities are very different from one another,” Perman said. “That’s why the advisory group is tasked not with making discrete decisions but ensuring university-based decisions are guided.”

The chancellor said reopening the system could help benefit the economy both locally and nationally. He also said there have been some discussions about potentially having small, in-person lab groups for some classes during the second summer session but cautioned it hinges on how the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold.

Perman also announced Salisbury University opened one of its dormitories to house over 100 patients and staff from the Peninsula Regional Medical Center who need to self-quarantine. Salisbury is also using its shuttle buses to transport people, Perman said.

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