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Fall classes begin at EWU on Wednesday amid COVID-19 pandemic

While EWU is offering most classes online, some will have face-to-face instruction, and the university expects less than 600 students to live in on-campus housing.

CHENEY, Wash. — Eastern Washington University students are returning to their classrooms virtually or in-person on Wednesday, Sept. 23 amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Most courses at the university are being offered online, but some will be conducted through face-to-face instruction.

Some students chose to return to campus.

"We really left it up to the students. We didn't actively discourage or actively encourage. We just said it's available if it's necessary. For those who need housing, we have housing available," Robert Sauders, EWU vice president of student affairs, said.

EWU normally has about 1,800 students living in on-campus housing, but the university is expecting to house less than 600 students this year, according to Sauders.

Students will notice some changes on campus, including residence halls only having single-occupancy rooms.

"If you're living on campus with us, you will go through a COVID-19 education course so that we can explain what the expectations are, what public health expectations we have, and what you can do to keep yourself and your community safe," Sauders said.

Sauders also said the university has identified an isolation residence hall that can be used if needed.

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"We have a campus resource team that has been working with the Spokane Regional Health District," Sauders said. "We have a staff member who is responsible for leading contact tracing. We have a number of internal processes in place to help us to begin that process and also talk to the students to do additional tracing if necessary."

Sauders added that EWU is not requiring students to be tested for COVID-19.

EWU hasn't created a designated testing facility on campus yet, but Sauders said the university is working with healthcare providers in the areas to set it up. 

When it comes to discipline, Sauders said EWU will take an education-first approach with students who violate gathering restrictions. If violations continue, students will go through the student conduct process, he added.

"It's still a work in progress. It's also one of the benefits of being a quarter school. We're able to watch our sister institutions open up on a semester system and we're watching and learning," Sauders said.