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Rice University plans to hold some classes in outdoor tents

The university is purchasing nine outdoor tents and converting them to classrooms, expanding not only space but also safety.

HOUSTON — As students and faculty members head back to Rice University for the fall semester, there are a few new rules in place.

Everyone must wear a mask, social distance and classes with more than 25 students will be online. But, if the class size is smaller, they can take place on campus. Some of them will even be held outside.

"One study estimated ... that it's one-twentieth of the spread outside compared to inside," Rice University President David Leebron said.

Leebron said the university is purchasing nine outdoor tents and converting them to classrooms, expanding not only space but also safety.

"Outdoors is really significantly less of a possibility of transmission than indoors. And so we want our students and others to feel as comfortable as possible," Leebron said.

Four of the tents will be semi-permanent. They'll have floors, walls airconditioning and heat.

"We would probably leave them up for a period of years, hopefully not because of the pandemic, but to serve other needs," Leebron said.

The other five tents are more temporary. They'll be open on all sides and students will sit in lightweight, portable chairs.

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