Parents apprehensive to send students back to UNC-Chapel Hill

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – UNC Chapel Hill is planning to have students back on campus in the fall. The school has worked on their Roadmap for Fall 2020 for the last few weeks.

“On one side, of course, we’re concerned as parents. On the other hand, we want the kids to have the college experience,” said Jonathon Knudsen, a parent of several UNC students.

Two of his children graduated from UNC. Another two are currently enrolled.

‘”It’s not like they’re three or four anymore and you can say, ‘Oh no, you can’t play on the playground with the other kids,'” said Kristen Knudsen, the student’s mother.

While their children are adults, the Knudsens are worried about sending them back to school during a pandemic.

The university provost said in an update on Thursday that the university system as a whole would have a minimum three feet distancing rule inside classrooms. Meanwhile, the CDC, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and Orange County officials are recommending six feet inside or outdoors.

Reading that discrepancy between the school’s standards and the CDC guidelines was alarming. Kristen was concerned about the student body’s impact on the greater community. Area businesses and vulnerable people have been told to keep six feet apart, but when school starts, they may come in contact with students adhering to a three-foot rule.

“They will not have the same guidelines as the rest of the community is used to having so it’s a concern which is why we brought it up,” said Kristen.

CBS 17 reached out to the university for comment. A spokesperson said plans are based on guidance from experts.

“UNC-Chapel Hill’s Roadmap for Fall 2020 is informed with guidance from infectious disease researchers, public health experts and our campus community. Our roadmap is a living document that we expect to change and evolve as we find the best way forward together. We encourage the Carolina community to follow weekly updates as they are posted on”

Leslie Minton, Associate Director of Media Relations at UNC-Chapel Hill

“My son said this morning, ‘What difference does it make, three or six feet? We’re going to get sick anyway.’ I was surprised,” said Kristen.

The Knudsens spoke with the provost Friday afternoon via phone. They said he told them that while the university as whole would abide by the three-foot rule in classrooms, individual colleges had the ability to increase that minimum to six feet.

The Knudsens said they were told deans in the department of arts and sciences, which they were told made up all first years and sophomores at Chapel Hill, took it upon themselves to increase physical distancing to six feet.

“It made us feel a lot better. It’s still a risk, it’s still alarming but it’s better than it was. Six feet sounds better than three,” said Jonathon.

Masks will be required on campus.

Jonathon Knudsen hoped his children and their classmates can stay safe if they choose to return to campus.

“We’ll see how everybody does with it. Is everybody really going to wear a mask, is everyone really going to be that careful?” he said.

Below is the university’s standards on masks and social distancing taken from the Provost’s latest update.

  • The University’s guidelines on wearing face masks, effective immediately
  • Face masks must be worn in all classroom settings by students, faculty, staff, and visitors from the time they enter the building to the time they leave the building and in indoor spaces. In dining halls, masks must be worn except when eating or drinking. In addition, masks must be worn in outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible.
  • In the classroom setting and other common indoor settings, students, faculty, staff, and visitors must observe a minimum of 3 feet physical distancing “mask to mask.” Masks must be worn in these spaces. Schools will have the discretion to expand distancing greater than 3 feet for certain classrooms.
  • Away from campus, Orange County requires face masks in restaurants, grocery and retail stores, in public transportation vehicles and in any indoor or outdoor situation where a 6-foot physical distance cannot be maintained.

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