Home » UK plans to start and end semester early; includes testing, screening and tracing

UK plans to start and end semester early; includes testing, screening and tracing

UK, budget, COVID-19
The University of Kentucky campus. (Mark Cornelison | UK)

LEXINGTON, Ky. — The University of Kentucky released Tuesday the pillars of its restart plan for the fall, which makes clear a commitment to returning to a residential campus experience in August:

  • In-person classes beginning a week early on Aug. 17 and end at Thanksgiving.
  • Testing for students for COVID-19, daily assessment for symptoms and mask-wearing in most places on campus.
  • Working with populations considered high-risk for contracting the virus to help protect their health and safety.
  • Contact tracing and quarantining when incidents of the virus occur on campus.

“We are responding with a collective commitment to reinvent ourselves — fortified by our historic and vital missions of education, research, service and care and committed to creating new foundations. We will emerge stronger, nimbler and even more dedicated to serving our state and our world,” UK President Eli Capilouto said. “Guided by science and decades of practice in clinical care and public health, we can take comprehensive, common-sense steps to protect community health.”

The playbook provides the first details of — and roadmap for — the university’s intention to reopen this fall with in-person instruction, open and active residence halls and dining facilities, and a full range of student support services for all populations. You can find the playbook and other information about UK’s restart at: www.uky.edu/fall2020.

As part of that effort, Capilouto emphasized that, as the university initiates health policies designed to protect the campus community this fall from COVID-19, steps must be taken to ensure that people and communities of color are not further marginalized or stigmatized. To that end, a workgroup will review plans and develop processes to ensure that public health policies associated with the campus restart are done equitably and safely.

Other areas of the campus — UK HealthCare, Research and Athletics — already have initiated phased restart plans. Highlights of the academic campus playbook include:

Classes begin and end

  • On-campus instruction will begin Aug. 17, which is a week earlier than originally scheduled prior to the pandemic.
  • Plans now are being developed for other orientation activities such as K Week and move-in to residence halls, in alignment with the new academic calendar dates.
  • Classes will be held on Labor Day, and there will be no fall break.
  • Classes will end at Thanksgiving break, and finals will be conducted after the break in remote or online learning contexts.
  • Changes to the academic calendar — both the start and end of classroom instruction — were developed in consultation with UK’s University Senate Council, the elected leadership for university faculty.

Testing, Screening, Tracing and Protection


  • Based on recommendations from UK’s START team (Screening, Testing and Tracing to Accelerate Restart and Transition), the university will require that all faculty, staff and students self-assess for symptoms daily.
  • Students will receive a healthy living starter kit (START kit) with appropriate information, instructions and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • A technology-based application will be made available for daily symptom checks and assessment.
  • PPE supplies will be maintained on campus in key areas.
  • Signage with instructions on symptom checks will be visible throughout the campus.


  • Viral testing will be offered for all students when they return to campus.
  • Testing is also encouraged for faculty and staff with underlying conditions, such as chronic lung disease, and for those who are over the age of 65.
  • Infection rates will be monitored on campus and in the community; randomized testing may be implemented to help with the reduction of new infections and community spread.


  • Wearing masks will be required unless alone in a room, while eating, drinking or exercising or when it interferes with required classroom activities.
  • A committee is being formed to examine potential issues with respect to masks and other requirements to ensure they are enforced equitably and fairly.
  • Social distancing — individuals maintaining six feet of distance — should be optimized at all times, unless required activities dictate otherwise.
  • Classrooms and elevators will limit numbers based on social distancing guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state.
  • Appropriate barriers — plexiglass and other similar materials — will be established in high-volume areas.
  • Sanitation and cleaning will be enhanced in buildings throughout the campus, and adequate hand sanitizer products will be made available.

Tracing and Quarantining:

  • Contract tracing will be implemented for incident cases among faculty, students and staff.
  • UK will partner with state, local and national entities for best practices in collection, assessment and contact of individuals exposed to infected people.
  • For those infected, a quarantining protocol will be implemented; someone should be fever-free for three days with improvement in respiratory symptoms.
  • A residence hall will be reserved for quarantining infected students until they can return to their original residence hall assignment.

Campus living and dining

  • Dining halls and retail food options will re-open. Dining halls will transition to served — rather than self-serve — options.
  • Seating in key dining areas across campus will be reduced in alignment with CDC and state protocols.
  • Social distancing will be promoted in the common areas of residence halls.
  • Hand sanitizer/cleaning supplies will be readily available in all common spaces (lobbies, lounges, academic learning centers and classrooms).
  • Residence hall staff will be educated on CDC guidelines and expected to clean the front desk area before and after every shift, including counters, keyboards, phone, equipment, etc.
  • Visitation in residence halls will be controlled or minimized to ensure that exposure risks are minimized.

Classroom instruction

  • To the extent possible as dictated by the health of the campus, space constraints from social distancing, and student learning objectives, courses will be delivered face-to-face.
  • Information Technology Services (ITS) is installing technology in centrally scheduled classrooms that will enable flexible course delivery to accommodate faculty or students who have or develop health issues.
  • Staff in ITS will continue to survey student technology needs and provide solutions where barriers are identified.
  • Leaders of academic units or programs will collaborate with full-time faculty, part-time instructors and graduate teaching assistants on appropriate teaching assignments and modalities to accommodate health risks.
  • The Office of Teaching, Learning, and Academic Innovation will continue to support faculty in continual quality improvement of all courses, including those that must be delivered in hybrid or online formats due to space or health constraints.

Phased Staff Restart

  • Non-health care employees will begin to return to campus in a phased approach in mid to late July.
  • The university is developing a process to identify which positions are critical to on-site operations to achieve a signature residential experience for students.
  • Decisions to return positions to on-site work will be approved by unit supervisors, in consultation with senior administration.
  • Faculty, staff and graduate students involved in research will return to campus based on a restart plan for research that is already in place.

“Reopening and returning to the distinctive residential and classroom experience we provide will mean, in some cases, changing old habits and thinking of different ways to accomplish long-standing goals,” Capilouto said. “And, even as we take these steps, we must ensure that in social distancing to protect our health we find ways to draw closer together as a community, united in common purpose toward a greater sense of understanding around shared values. We can do this.”