Cautiously optimistic, UAS will open its doors

Face-to-face and online classes start Aug. 24

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing merger considerations, the University of Alaska Southeast will open its doors for classes on Aug. 24.

“We’re trying our best to keep everybody on campus safe,” said UAS Interim Chancellor Karen Carey. “UAS is open, we’re excited to get back to our semester, we’re going to take every precaution we can and we’re trying to accommodate everybody.”

Currently, the school anticipates around 400 students to attend face-to-face classes across its three campuses in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka, Carey said, but most of the instruction will take place online. Reactions to university COVID-19 policies from faculty, students and families have been mixed, she said, but generally supportive.

[University of Alaska regents cut 39 programs across the system]

Some students and faculty are eager to return to a classroom environment, she said, while others wanted to keep their distance. The university is trying to provide both, Carey said. About 150 students are expected to move into student housing at the Juneau campus, she said, but room capacity will be cut in half and students will only be allowed to take off their masks in their own living spaces. Masks will be required in all common areas, Carey said.

University of Alaska Southeast campus housing will be half as full this year, as changes have to be made to ensure social distancing. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

University of Alaska Southeast campus housing will be half as full this year, as changes have to be made to ensure social distancing. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Most of the students living in dorms are in the 18-22-year-old age range, and can often be asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus, she said, and the university is taking precautions surrounding how students and faculty interact.

The threat of that merger has hurt enrollment, Carey said, but she is hopeful registration would pick up towards the end of summer.

Former University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen proposed UAS be merged with one of the other universities in the system as a way of cutting costs. The UA system is suffering under losses from both the coronavirus pandemic and cuts to the state budget, Johnsen said, and needed to find ways to save money.

The UA Board of Regents will meet Wednesday to review the merger proposal, and Carey said she was optimistic that the decision would be reversed, which she believes would drive enrollment.

[University of Alaska board votes for study on University of Alaska Southeast merger]

“Our students register late anyway,” she said.

Enrollment was down about 18% Carey estimated, saying current total enrollment is about 2,000 students, down from the roughly 3,000 the university typically sees.

Aug. 15 is the deadline for fall semester applications, according to UAS’ website, and Aug. 24 is the first day of instruction.

Students will start moving into student housing in Juneau over the weekend, Carey said, and faculty and staff were excited to start the new semester.

“We’re open, come on down,” she said.

The Juneau campus of the University of Alaska Southeast awaits students on Friday, July 31, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

The Juneau campus of the University of Alaska Southeast awaits students on Friday, July 31, 2020. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

This photo shows the Juneau campus of the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, July 31, 2020. Classes start Aug. 24 but enrollment is down as both the University of Alaska and UAS have taken financial hits in the past year. Still, university officials say they’re eager to begin the new semester. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

This photo shows the Juneau campus of the University of Alaska Southeast on Friday, July 31, 2020. Classes start Aug. 24 but enrollment is down as both the University of Alaska and UAS have taken financial hits in the past year. Still, university officials say they’re eager to begin the new semester. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

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