MSSU, KCU Joplin, announce plans for on campus classes

Both universities to require students, staff, faculty to wear masks

JOPLIN, Mo. – College and medical students in Joplin will be able to go back to campus for the first time since March.

“Missouri Southern is committed to providing an engaging on-campus experience for students this fall, while also prioritizing the safety of our faculty, staff, students and community,” says Missouri Southern State University President Dean Van Gallen in a press release announcing plans on Wednesday.

MSSU will have classes in person when they begin on August 17th. But, students, faculty, staff and visitors will have to wear masks when they are on campus, and in places where social distancing can’t be maintained. The policy does allow exceptions in certain situations.

“We will continue to implement best practices and promote a campus culture that supports both high-quality education and the well-being of all,” said Van Gallen in the release.

The university will be supplying students, faculty, and staff with two cloth face coverings at the beginning of the semester.

Kansas City Univerisity of Medicine and Biosciences – Joplin will also have students on campus this fall when classes begin July 27th, but not nearly as often. The medical school will be using a hybrid class system, where lectures will be done remotely and labs will be done in person. The university is prepared to maintain a hybrid class system for the rest of the school year.

“Those things that are absolutely critical to do that a physician must learn by working with others we’ve kept in place,” says Kansas City University Executive Dean Darrin D’Agostino. “So we are limiting the amount of contact that the students are going to have to those things that are necessary. And we’ve created a schedule that actually limits the entire number of students that would be in any one place.”

But before their school year starts, students are being asked to locate to where they live when they are attending class by July 13th, so they can self-quarantine for 14 days before classes begin. Every student will also be tested for COVID-19 before the semester starts, and all students, faculty and staff will have to wear a mask at all times when they are on campus.

“We want to mitigate those risks. We want to contain any challenges, and we want to do the right thing because of paramount importance is the safety of our students, our faculty and our staff. And the communities that we serve,” says D’Agostino.

D’Agostino says the university is prepared to move forward to all on-campus classes or move back to all remote classes, at any time. A decision that he says will not be made lightly.

“Every school has to make a choice about the amount of risk they are willing to take,” says D’Agostino.

It’s not entirely clear if Missouri Southern would move back to full remote learning if the COVID-19 cases in the Joplin area continue to rise. But, Toby Teeter, President of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, says that if Missouri Southern had decided to move forward with remote learning, it would have impacted the economy in a pretty big way.

“There’s six thousand students at Missouri Southern State University. A very large percent of them are actually out of market. So, you’ve got students coming in from Kansas City, St. Louis, and other states, and that means those students might not necessarily move back to Joplin,” says Teeter. “The economic impact of Missouri Southern is substantial. It’s actually one of our largest employers. So when you have thousands of students choosing not to return to Joplin, that effects small businesses, restaurants, coffee shops and so on significantly. That’s why it’s really important right now to get a handle on our COVID positive rates and come together as a community and improve those numbers.”