Masks among requirements for UCSO fall semester

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite
The University Center of Southern Oklahoma in 2019. The Ardmore campus has released a COVID-19 response for the upcoming semester that requires students and faculty to wear masks on campus.

The beginning of a new college semester can be full of excitement, apprehension and nerves. Something that will be lacking as classes resume at the University Center of Southern Oklahoma during a COVID-19 pandemic will be uncertainty over face coverings.

Masks will be one of the required accessories for students and staff returning to UCSO for the upcoming fall semester beginning Aug. 17. UCSO President Peggy Maher said masks, temperature screenings and social distancing recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Oklahoma State Department of Health were not the only factors in approving the pandemic-related policies.

“It’s based on CDC, department of health guidelines, but also on our partners’ policies. So it has been evolving through the summer as their plans evolved,” Maher said on Thursday. “Face masks have become much more important in preventing transmission, so we’ve gone from recommending face masks to ‘nope, there has to be a face mask.’”

Policies from Langston University, Murray State College and Southeastern Oklahoma State University — schools that partner with USCO to offer classes in Ardmore — all require face coverings on campus. The UCSO policy instituted ahead of the fall semester extends the requirement to the satellite campus in Ardmore.

Temperature screenings will also be conducted for students and staff before they can enter the building. Maher said one contactless temperature station has been in use for a faculty entrance in recent weeks and a second device would soon be installed for the main entrance.  

Other policies being instituted at the Ardmore campus include paperless check-in for visitors and increased sanitization. While common areas will still be available for students and staff, social distancing is highly recommended.

Since UCSO offers classrooms and resources to students technically enrolled in one of three other schools, the Ardmore campus finds itself in a unique situation with regards to funding assistance. Maher said her campus has incurred some extra costs associated with the new policies and her staff would be working with the state to help offset these expenses. 

“The colleges and universities got money through the CARES Act, through the federal department of education, but we don’t qualify for that money,” Maher said.

Aside from increased costs associated with cleaning supplies and temperature screening equipment, Maher said the campus has also needed to invest in technology, like cameras, so instructors can provide virtual offerings.

“A nice little high definition webcam cost about $45 six months ago, now it’s $125 if you can find one,” she said.