An email from the Office of the President stated that NAU will host in-person classes this fall, although the semester will start and end earlier than originally anticipated. Coursework will officially begin Aug. 12 — nearly two weeks early — and the conclusion of finals week will be before Thanksgiving.

This decision was confirmed as universities around the country began to announce plans for the upcoming semester, whether face-to-face or online. According to the email, NAU is actively working to maintain the well-being of the university community, achieve academic excellence and mitigate any safety risks for students, faculty and staff alike.

“Our goal is to take advantage of a period of expected lower COVID-19 case rates, exceptional weather for encouraging outdoor activities and lower rates of student travel prior to any potential resurgence of the virus,” according to the email.

Furthermore, the university is collaborating with health experts around the country as these plans for reopening progress.

“We continue to consult with public health officials, local and state leaders, and health experts in the Flagstaff and the NAU community as we refine our plans to resume in-person campus operations,” the email stated.

Despite this announcement, some adjustments will be implemented as the fall semester approaches. The university expects enhanced sanitation and cleaning practices around campus, the distribution and usage of masks, social distancing techniques and effective testing protocols, also according the email statement.

While classes will be hosted in-person, other sectors of the university will also undergo select and specified changes. According to the email, NAU plans to resume student life, research, operations, events and creative activities as normally as possible while still following appropriate safety guidelines.

For students who are uncomfortable with attending face-to-face classes, the university also announced its NAUFlex program, which provides an alternative to traditional classroom environments.

“NAUFlex supports safety and physical distancing with a fully immersive classroom experience available in-person and online,” the email stated. “Each classroom will have the capability to stream classes, offering our students the flexibility to engage in a quality and highly personal experience with safety top of mind.”

As for the other aspects of student life — which include dormitories, apartment-style housing, dining halls and recreational facilities — NAU is developing strategies and procedures to reopen safely. According to the email, residence configuration options are also under review, mainly to ensure increased physical distancing and decreased student densities.

At the end of the university’s announcement, President Rita Cheng explained that administrators are looking forward to having the Lumberjack family on campus this fall, while still following direction from health authorities.

“My thanks to the many teams working on these important measures that will allow us to provide our students with the quality academic and personal experience that brought them to NAU while mitigating risks to all members of our community,” the email stated.