BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - With sports taking a back seat to COVID-19 and the new school year on the horizon, many are wondering what’s the plan when school starts in the fall?
The Baton Rouge Press Club hosted a virtual meeting, Monday afternoon (April 27) during these unprecedented times. LSU Interim President Dr. Tom Galligan Jr. was the guest speaker.
In the 51 years the Press Club has been around, an outbreak has never forced an online meeting. Nevertheless, Dr. Galligan jumped right in. He started the virtual Press Club meeting going through a timeline of LSU’s COVID-19 response.
The interim president says two weeks after the LSU football team won the National Championship, they were prepping a COVID-19 response plan. Students have been learning from home almost a month at this point.
So when will things get back to normal or some sense of it?
“We are absolutely planning on being open in the fall,” Dr. Galligan said. “That’s the plan, but with safety being the guidepost, the start date could shift or the school year could start online and transition into face-to-face learning.”
Every light won't be turned on in the house at the same time, he says.
“We don’t see LSU going from closed to open overnight. That’ll be a gradual process,” he said. “Will some large classes probably be online instead of in a big lecture hall? Probably. Will other classes, smaller classes, probably be in bigger rooms? Probably. But we will do everything we can to get back to campus.”
The interim president added that he has advised his staff to prepare for budget cuts up from 5% to 10%.
“We know there’s going to be financial uncertainty. We know there’s going to be financial disruption," he said.
It’s why maintaining steady enrollment numbers is a focus. Figures from LSU show enrollment is up. More than 28,000 hopefuls have submitted undergrad applications; that’s compared to 24,000 in 2019. However, leaders know now more than ever money matters for their students.
“We know there are families that are going to be financially affected by COVID,” Galligan said. “I will anticipate that may have some impact on our financial aid packages.”
Galligan, however, says he’s concerned with retention as it relates to international students.
“We’re working hard to retain all the students that we can," he said.
LSU has implemented a 15% exception on summer school tuition and fees. It’s unclear if the fall semester will see tuition changes.
Quite arguably, the number one question on the minds of Tiger fans though, is when will the football season start?
“We hope to God that we will be back to football and to sports, but how are we going to do it? We’re going to do it safely," Galligan said.
Dr. Galligan says he’s in constant talks with leaders of the SEC. That being said, there’s no clear direction at this point on how sports will make a comeback.
“It may be a little different in some ways, but I think it’s important to play the season and I hope we do," Galligan said.
The interim president added it’s important to play the season not just for revenue’s sake, but for the spirit of Louisiana.
Galligan says the university is going through unprecedented times and sometimes the best answer to some questions concerning the future is, “I don’t know.”
”Looking into the future and dealing with the many issues we face, I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know, but we will make the best decisions possible based on the best data available. Our guideposts will be safety and fulfilling teaching and service research missions," said Galligan.
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