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In-Person Learning Will Return To Nevada's Colleges, Universities But With Changes


Nevada's colleges and universities will be open this summer and fall. In the fall, they’re expecting to have in-person classes. That’s the latest from Thom Reilly, chancellor of the state’s university system.

“It will look different. We’ll have a combination perhaps a hybrid of having some online as well as in-person classes," Reilly told KNPR's State of Nevada, "We’re looking at what that might mean for residential and dining halls and what that looks like for athletics.”

Reilly said they're working with public health and education experts on how exactly to implement some changes like potentially monitoring temperatures of students when they go into the dorms.

They're also looking turning double-occupancy dorm rooms into single occupancy. They may have students who want to room together sign a waiver acknowledging the risks of living together. 

Reilly also said the athletic departments are working with the NCAA and the Mountain West Conference to determine how to bring back sports safely, but he said the talks are preliminary.

As far as classes, Reilly said there will likely be more online and remote classes for students, which colleges and universities have been trying to push for several years. 

But in-person classes are important. Reilly said students want to be on campus.

“We do know from talking to our students that they would prefer to come back in person, particularly many are finding the math and science classes challenging remote. So, it’s clear that they want back. We just want to ensure the safety of our faculty, staff and students as we do so,” he said.

Because no one is entirely sure how long it will take for the virus to run its course or for a vaccine to prevent its spread to be ready, Reilly is asking the institutions under his supervision to be ready for just about anything.

“I think the important thing about how we proceed at the universities and colleges whether its housing, athletics, in-person classes is that we’re going to have to flexible,” he said.

The other unknown is just how much NSHE's budget will be cut. The state is expecting a budget shortfall because of the dramatic drop in state revenue from gaming and sales taxes.

Gov. Steve Sioslak has asked state departments, including NSHE to prepare budgets with a 4 percent cut for Fiscal Year 2020. For Fiscal Year 2021, he's asking for three different scenarios - 6, 10 and 14 percent cuts. 

Reilly, along with faculty and college presidents, has come up with plans for all of those scenarios, keeping the most difficult cutbacks for the very worst budget outcome.

The chancellor is concerned that even the worst outcome they've prepped for - will not be enough.

“I think there are a couple questions. One is: is the 14 percent going to be enough? I would imagine at some time the governor would probably need to call a special session perhaps after the Economic Forum, later on in the summer once they have an understanding of what the revenues are,” he said.

Another important budget factor that they don't know yet is enrollment. Reilly said they're tracking those numbers but don't know yet if they're going to see a drop in enrollment at some institutions and rise in enrollment in others.

​Thom Reilly, chancellor, Nevada System of Higher Education

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.