A prestigious university has come up with a plan to welcome students back to campus in the fall amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
The University of Notre Dame announced that it will be kicking off its fall semester early, during the week of Aug. 10, two weeks earlier than originally scheduled. The school will also forgo its fall break and end the semester early, before Thanksgiving in an effort to avoid a possible second wave of COVID-19 that could come in the fall.
Notre Dame's students were sent home in mid-March due to the pandemic, and all academic and summer programming has been canceled through Monday, July 6.
“By far the most complex challenge before us is the return of our students to campus for the resumption of classes in the fall semester,” University President Rev. John I. Jenkins said. “Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed. We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet.”
Jenkins said Notre Dame officials have consulted for months with experts on the faculty and members of the infectious disease departments at several leading institutions as they formed their plan for the fall semester.
The plan laid out by the university calls for comprehensive testing for students, faculty, and staff, including contact tracing quarantine and isolation protocols laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social distancing will be in effect, school buildings will be sanitized regularly and face coverings will be required.
As part of its planning, the university has identified facilities to isolate students who test positive and quarantine students who have been in close contact. Testing, contact tracing, and the quarantine-isolation protocols will continue throughout the semester and as long as necessary.
If a second wave hits, the university will transition back to remote instruction, and faculty members have been told to prepare fall courses with “two distinct periods of equal length to allow for a smoother transition, should the university be forced to begin on-campus activities later in the fall or end it earlier than scheduled.”
“As we adapt to the new normal brought on by the coronavirus, we will do everything we can to provide you with a safe learning, research, and working environment,” Jenkins added, noting that the university will “monitor developments and alter plans should a serious outbreak occur, or should it be unable to acquire what is needed for testing.”
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