Students returning for the fall semester can expect the university to offer some in-person classes, and those will require masks and 6-foot social distancing.

In a Feb. 18 report to the University of Hawaiʻi Board of Regents, President David Lassner said restrictions on in-person learning will still be necessary because not everyone will be vaccinated. Along with in-person classes, Lassner also confirmed that the university would continue to offer hybrid and online courses to its students.


Empty classroom that has been adjusted to be socially distant when students eventually come back to in-person instruction.

The Office of the Provost revealed today that 62% of the university's courses will be offered completely online, and 19% will be offered only in-person. The hybrid format comprises 11% of the courses, which will allow students the opportunity to participate both in-person and online. The remaining 8% will be offered in a variety of modalities for students to choose among fully in-person, fully online, hybrid or the “Here-or-There” modality in which students can elect to be online or in-person with the course's faculty members.

“We will be operating under some significant restrictions,” Lassner said. “This distancing requirement severely limits the capacity of our classrooms and will be driving a lot of our planning.” 

The COVID-19 precautions that will be implemented in the fall are based on the assumption that not all students will be vaccinated.

“We do not believe we can assume at this time that all of our students will be vaccinated by fall, including for those who may be arriving from other states and other countries," Lassner said on Feb. 18. 

Another significant change being introduced in the fall is the return of football games on campus in addition to other athletic events, performances and campus events. Students can also meet and gather in-person for the 120 clubs and organizations offered on campus.

UH campus before and after COVID-19

Comparison between the last day of school before spring break and the first day of school after spring break at McCarthy Mall at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

Hawaiʻi is currently in Phase 1c of it’s COVID-19 vaccination program. In the next two months, Phase 2 of Hawaiʻi’s vaccination program is expected to begin, where the vaccine will be available to the general public. In preparation for the fall semester, the university system ramped up efforts to vaccinate its staff for the start of in-person classes.

“About 15,000 employees, including student employees, across the 10 campus system have been offered appointments,” UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said. “We expect that most of them have scheduled or received their first shot and many have already scheduled or received their second shot.”

With the vaccine becoming available in the months leading up to the fall semester, the university urges students to get vaccinated this summer.

Transition to normalcy on campus

Administrators are also weighing what precautions they will need to impose on public spaces such as the Paradise Palms Café food court, as well as the Hamilton and Sinclair libraries.

The food court has been closed since July 17 2020, and has since required customers to dine through take-out services only. 

Paradise Palms COVID-19

Paradise Palms at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus closes its dining room and is available for take-out only.

Paradise Palms .jpg

“We are looking forward to reopening all the concepts in Paradise Palms as the campus population returns to normal,” Paradise Palms manager Andy Lachman said.

Similarly to the university’s reopening plans, Paradise Palms will depend on the university's guidelines, as well as state and local government regulations.

“The final decision on the number of concepts that will be open in the fall semester will depend on the number of students, faculty and staff that are anticipated to be on campus,” Lachman said. “Also, any decisions will take into consideration the current guidance from the CDC, state and local government regarding COVID procedures and safety measures.” 

As for the Sinclair library, the university has yet to release what safety precautions will be implemented in the fall.

“It is still unknown what precautions will be in place for the fall semester at Sinclair or the entire campus,” Meizenshal said. “The expectation is that the current restrictions will be partially or fully lifted depending on the status of the pandemic and success of the vaccination effort locally and nationally.”

The university’s COVID-19 guidelines at all UH campuses are based on the federal guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as local guidance from the state Department of Health.