HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont announced that he has received a detailed report containing recommendations for reopening Connecticut’s colleges and universities.
The recommendations include the gradual reopening of higher education campuses over the course of the summer – at the discretion of each institution.
By the fall semester, if health conditions permit, all of the sectors may reopen, although institutions will be free to decide whether they need more time for certain programs to restart.
“Our colleges and universities are the springboard for so many to launch their careers, and they are an economic engine of the state,” Lamont said. “And of course, it can’t go without saying that Connecticut’s great research universities are working to help bring an end to the current pandemic. Given the heterogeneity of our colleges and universities, one size won’t fit all, which is why we need carefully tailored guidelines for differing parts of this sector. This framework to reopen our higher education institutions is a vital component of our overall plan to reopen Connecticut.”
The recommended sequencing for reopening colleges and universities would be as follows:
- Research programs and administrative functions will be able to open on the same timetable as the first wave of general business operations in the state, which is currently set for May 20.
- Next, early in the summer, workforce development programs in institutions such as community colleges may reopen.
- By mid-July, other nonresidential educational programs might be reopened if public health conditions continue to improve, and some institutions may want to resume graduate programs. A few summer programs involving undergraduate students in residential settings might be piloted.
- By the end of the summer in preparation for the fall semester, if prevailing health conditions make it possible, undergraduate residential institutions may reopen if they choose.
This sequencing depends on several public health conditions that must be met, including:
- The prevalence of the disease must be low enough to allow the safe resumption of campus operations;
- Institutions that will be housing students 24/7 must have access to enough COVID-19 tests so that entering students can be tested upon arrival, and those students testing positive must be immediately isolated; and
- An adequate capacity for contact tracing must be provided to the higher education institutions.
In order to reopen, each higher education institution would be required to file reopening plans with the Connecticut Department of Public Health, detailing how they propose to:
- Repopulate the campus, likely in a phased way;
- Monitor health conditions to detect infection;
- Contain the spread of disease when detected; and
- Shut down the campus in the event it becomes necessary.
This decision comes after he announced K-12 schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.
The list of colleges and universities across Connecticut who haven’t announced final decisions regarding the fall semester include UConn, Yale, Wesleyan, Trinity and Central Connecticut State, among others. The decision is leaving a lot of families in limbo both logistically and financially
All must consider the best guidelines to keep staff and students safe.
“In terms of student safety, we will be following all of the state requirements around social distancing around the amount of students that can gather in a residence hall,” said University of New Haven’s President Steve Kaplan. “The number that can be in a residence hall together, in the dining hall. The requirements for face masks by all faculty staff and students.”
What will campus life look like in the fall? Many universities said students will wear masks, be tested, have their temperatures checked and have desks spaced apart.
“Well, I think it’s definitely going to be a lot different than what it looks like when all of our students and faculty left several months ago,” said Gary MacNamara, Executive Director of Public Safety and Governmental Affairs at Sacred Heart University. “There’s going to be an infrastructure component meaning we are going to have some buildings that you access one way and you exit a certain way, similar to what supermarkets are doing.”
In the meantime, many already took such a hit this semester. Connecticut’s state colleges and universities are expected to receive nearly $55 million in federal emergency relief aid. According to CSCU, half of that money has to be dedicated to emergency financial aid assistance.
The rest will go to Central, Southern, Eastern and Western Connecticut State Universities to help reimburse students for room and board.
Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart have alluded to returning to in-person classes by the fall while UConn has asked faculty and staff to prepare to teach the university’s fall semester online.
Quinnipiac University released the following statement:
We understand COVID-19 is creating economic hardships for many individuals, and Quinnipiac is issuing credits on both housing and dining costs for returning students. Students can apply these credits to their tuition, housing, and dining costs for next year, and the average housing credit a student is receiving is over $3,000. We anticipate returning to in-classroom instruction and on-campus activities this fall, but the final decision will be driven by guidelines from government and health officials, and the easing of restrictions on travel and group gatherings that will facilitate the safe return to school.
A spokesperson for Wesleyan University said:
In consultation with public health authorities and other experts, Wesleyan University is actively planning for the fall semester. We will be open in the fall, and we very much hope that with appropriate safety measures on campus we can be residential. As we monitor the trajectory of the pandemic, however, we are also planning for multiple scenarios, some of which include various degrees of remote educational programing. The health and safety of our campus community is paramount in our planning. We will issue public updates over the course of the next six weeks with the goal of making final decisions in early July.