Amid uncertainties, universities plan safe reopening

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will offer COVID-19 testing stations on campus and require all students, faculty and staff to be tested twice weekly. (University of Illinois photo by Fred Zwicky)

The University of Illinois will welcome more than 55,000 students, faculty and staff back to school this month with stringent requirements to confront COVID-19 plus a simpler, non-invasive test to identify the virus.

Anyone who plans to be on campus — whether regularly or even a limited time — will be required to be tested twice weekly as the state’s flagship university plans to resume in-person instruction.

Illinois will employ a non-invasive saliva test at on-campus locations, a procedure that Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he’d like to see expanded to schools across the state.

“We’re talking to the University of Illinois about how we might provide that across the state to other locations,” Pritzker told reporters at a press conference at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Classes will also soon resume at other major institutions in an environment where masks will be mandatory and mass gatherings are highly discouraged.

“I know that coming back to college is a celebratory time for so many young people,” Pritzker said. “But I can’t emphasize enough that we need everybody to do their part in the fight against this pandemic. Large gatherings and large unmasked gatherings in particular are a no go.”

The state’s colleges and universities retreated to online learning last spring as COVID-19 infections and deaths increased.

As fall approaches most have adopted some forms of in-person and remote learning. Here’s how state universities are handling reopening:

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Fall classes begin Aug. 24 and the university plans for in-person instruction, plus distance learning for larger lectures and other situations.

Nov. 20 will be the final day of fall in-person instruction. Classes for the remaining weeks of the semester and finals will be provided via alternative-delivery methods.

“We are privileged to be home to some of the world’s leading minds on COVID-19 safety, testing and procedures,” Chancellor Robert J. Jones said. “If everyone does their part to maximize the safety of our entire community, we have the ability to provide modified in-person delivery of our missions.”

Compliance with testing requirements will be checked at entrances of all university buildings through an individual’s smartphone or identification card. Student ambassadors and other resources will be in place with answers to questions.

Mor information:

Southern Illinois University-Carbondale  

COVID-19 cases have increased in the region, prompting a recent visit by Pritzker and a warning.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, which once seemed tame in Carbondale and throughout the entire region, is now surging here,” Pritzker said. “It’s worse than in Chicago, and I’ll be frank, if we don’t see some change here the virus will cause some businesses to close and an increasing percentage of people to get sick, and some will even die.”

SIU will offer in-person, hybrid and remote learning. Classes start Aug. 17, with final exams ending Dec. 11. The last two weeks of the semester will be conducted remotely.

Employees and students are required to wear face coverings. A testing plan is expected to be in place when school starts.

More information:


Illinois State University


A blend of in-person and remote learning begins Aug. 17 and concludes Dec. 11. The university will move to online instruction after fall break.

While face-to-face and hybrid teaching will end on Nov. 21, classes will continue online through the end of the semester. This impacts one week of regular classroom instruction and finals week. Final examinations will be taken online.

Illinois State continues to finalize plans for on-campus testing for the fall term. Testing will be offered through Student Health Services for students who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

More information:


Northern Illinois University

NIU’s “Protecting the Pack” plan includes an academic calendar with classes running from Aug. 24 through the end of finals on Dec. 12. Face masks will be required throughout campus, including inside classrooms.

Students living on campus are required to submit results of a COVID-19 test to the campus housing department. Although not required, off-campus residents are encouraged to have a test.

Students can choose between online courses, face-to-face courses and hybrid courses.

NIU President Lisa Freeman is realistic about opening in the midst of a pandemic.

“Even with prudent precautions in place, we must be realistic about proceeding,” she wrote in a message to the community. “COVID-19 infections are likely to occur on our and other university campuses despite extensive efforts to protect against virus spread.”

More information:


University of Illinois at Chicago

The Circle Back to Campus Plan calls for fall semester instruction to begin Aug. 24. Classes will be conducted both remotely and in-person. Everyone on campus will be required to wear a mask at all times, including during classes. The university is in the process of building an infrastructure for COVID-19 testing and tracing. Campus housing, student dining centers and recreation/fitness centers will remain open.

More information:

Following are links to information from other Illinois public universities and major private schools:

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

 Eastern Illinois University

University of Illinois-Springfield:

Western Illinois University

 Governor’s State University

 Chicago State University

Northeastern Illinois University

Northwestern University

Loyola University

Bradley University

University of Chicago

DePaul University


Compiled from information gathered from university and official sources, plus contributions from Capitol News Illinois.