Heritage University to partially reopen campus in the fall

TOPPENISH, Wash. — Heritage University will partially reopen its Toppenish campus for classes in the fall, university president Dr. Andrew Sund announced Wednesday.

Sund said two developments that factored into the decision to reopen campus were: 1) Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation allowing universities to reopen and 2) Yakima County’s progress in containing the coronavirus, which has resulted in the county entering Phase 1.5 of the state’s reopening plan.

“Heritage exists to serve students who face difficulties accessing higher education for various reasons, one of which is that they want to stay in this wonderful valley we call home. However, many students do not have the conditions in their homes to conduct significant academic work. Internet connectivity is unreliable and space is limited – especially if they have siblings in the home all of whom need quiet study space and access to high-speed internet,” Sund said. “For them, access to higher education means coming to campus.”

Under Heritage’s reopening plan, approved by the Yakima Health District, many courses will offer a combination of face-to-face instruction and remote learning.

When on campus, steps will be taken to ensure that class sizes are kept small to allow for safe social distancing. In many cases, classes will be divided into subsections where one group comes to class and the other learns online one day, and then the groups switch for the next day. Students will also determine their ability to come to campus based on health-related concerns for themselves and their family members, a news release from Heritage University said.

The majority of student support activities will be offered online. However, students who want in-person tutoring at the university’s Academic Skills Center will be accommodated by setting up Plexiglas dividers between the tutor and student.

Sund said every precaution will be taken to ensure the safety of all students, faculty and staff while on campus.

“While we recognize that it is important to open our campus for instruction because of the needs of our students, we must do so while following the strictest safety protocols,” Sund said.

Other protocols include requiring the wearing of face masks at all times and constant cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing of classrooms and other locations on campus.

“Above all else, we must continue to lead with our mission, always acting in the best interest of our students across all aspects of their beings, their health and safety and their determination to continue to move forward with their lives and education,” Sund said.

The university’s regional site at Columbia Basin College in Tri-Cities will also partially reopen in the fall.