Universities In Boston Announce Fall Semester Plans Amid COVID-19

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Preparations are underway at dozens of universities and colleges in Boston for what will be the first full semester amid the global pandemic.

While all universities are required to follow state rules regarding face coverings, social distancing, and limiting capacity inside rooms, several colleges will also require everyone on campus to take regular COVID-19 tests throughout the semester.

Here's how some of Boston's biggest schools are planning to return in the fall.

Boston College

During the fall semester, classes at BC will be held as a combination of in-class, hybrid, and on-line courses.

Students who opt for in-class learning are scheduled to return to campus beginning August 25. For the entire week prior, Boston College will initiate "mandatory testing of all students, faculty, and staff who intend to be on campus this fall."

The College has also established protocols for continued COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and it has secured additional housing for isolation purposes.

"The University will also test on a weekly basis various students and others in high contact positions, such as hall directors and resident assistants, Boston College Police, dining, custodial, and Connell Recreation Center staff, and Athletics personnel, for asymptomatic presence of the coronavirus," said BC.

Boston College is also working out plans for an app, which will assist with COVID-test scheduling, reporting confidential results, and monitoring symptoms.

Boston University

The majority of BU's fall classes will be held remotely on its new "simultaneous in-person and remote hybrid teaching system," called Learn from Anywhere (LfA.) While BU said some of the reopening specifics "are still being worked out," in-class learning will also be available.

Thanks to LfA, BU says incoming first-year students and undergraduate students returning to campus "can choose to attend in-person classes or take classes remotely via Zoom or some other technology—or engage in both interchangeably."

To make sure anyone attending in-person classes does not have COVID-19, the university is instituting its own free COVID-19 testing program at five sites for all faculty, students and staff who want to get back on campus.

BU said daily in-house testing is part of its "multi-pronged approach" to safely reopening, while allowing students to choose remote or in-person learning, or a mix of both. COVID test results from the school's lab will be delivered to people digitally in a confidential format.

Every day, before leaving their rooms or homes to come to campus, students will also be required to screen themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 by checking their temperature and reporting any symptoms through BU’s "Healthway website," which will be launched by mid-August.

Through a digital agreement, all students coming to campus will be required to agree to a set of "Health Commitments and Expectations" like wearing face coverings, undergoing regular COVID-19 testing, and isolation when necessary.

Emerson College

Emerson is preparing for a hybrid teaching model in the fall, called "One Emerson Flex Learning." The new academic framework consists largely of what the College calls "blended learning," where most courses will be a combination of in-person and virtual classes. Students can also request online-only learning.

In order to allow for some in-person learning, Emerson is planning a rigorous COVID-19 testing protocol for its entire campus community.

As part of its Safe for School Testing Program, Emerson has purchased coronavirus tests from the Broad Institute and will be requiring all students, faculty, and staff on campus to get tested regularly at Tufts Medical Center.

According to the College's website, students will be required to take a "baseline test" prior to moving into residence halls or starting classes. Students must also take a "PCR self-swab tests" every week through the end of the fall semester. The College has set up rooms on campus in case a resident tests positive and needs to isolate.

Faculty and staff will also have to take a baseline test before returning to campus, and they can opt-in to weekly testing using the PCR self-swab test.

Emerson said its hygiene protocols will be heightened as well, including the use of a Clorox 360 disinfecting machine to spray down all classroom and office surfaces on a daily basis.

No student will not be allowed to return to campus after leaving on November 25 for the Thanksgiving Break. All academic classes and exams will be fully online from Monday, November 20 through Wednesday, December 9.

Harvard University

In mid-March, Harvard transitioned to a fully-remote faculty and staff, and most students moved off-campus "until further notice." In late April, Provost Alan Garber said "Harvard will be open for fall 2020," but indicated that each School would be "making determinations and announcements about their plans for fall 2020 based on their own unique considerations."

By the end of July, Harvard said it had been "planning for a range of scenarios" for the Fall semester.

The University has put together several "working groups", formed of representatives from across Harvard's schools and central administration, to work on plans that will gradually allow faculty, students, and other staff back onto campus "as conditions allow."

The working groups have been consulting with public health experts to create guidelines related to testing, tracing, and isolation, physical distancing and PPE, office realignment, academics, housing, athletics, and travel, among other issues.

Currently, Harvard is operating under the state's "Safer at Home Advisory," meaning only essential staff are allowed on-campus. While some science lab operations have resumed under "stringent requirements," teaching, learning, working, and research is all still remote.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

School will start one week earlier than normal for MIT students this Fall, and many classes will be taught remotely.

In order to allow returning students the time to get tested for COVID-19 and to self-quarantine, MIT said "all instruction (graduate and undergraduate) will be delivered remotely during the first week of classes, September 1-7."

According to the school's website, seniors will be the only undergraduate students invited to be on campus, with a few exceptions.

"A small number of other undergraduates will have the opportunity to request campus housing due to special circumstances," said the university. "Graduate students have already begun to return to conduct research and should work with their departments directly to make plans for the upcoming term."

When it comes to classroom use, MIT said any subject that can be taught virtually, will be taught virtually. Some classes will also have an in-person component to them, according to the school's Subject Listing & Schedule.

MIT is also adjusting its grading policy for Fall 2020 to allow for "extra flexibility" for all undergraduate and graduate students. That includes allowing all students to opt for one subject to be graded "Pass/No Pass."

All students will be required to stay off-campus after the Thanksgiving break, at which point all instruction will be remote "through the last day of classes on December 9." Final exams, which will be held December 14-18, will also be remote.

Northeastern University

Thanks to a new program called "Hybrid NUFlex," some Northeastern students can be in the classroom this fall, while others will be able to learn remotely in real time. In some classes, NU says there will also be an instructional assistant in the classroom.

Northeastern is requiring all students arriving at the Boston campus to undergo COVID-19 testing, and to immediately quarantine until they receive their first negative coronavirus test result.

"After the third test comes back negative, students will be able to fully engage in campus activities, such as attending classes in person," said NU. "Details on how to schedule your test will be forthcoming close to the start of the fall term."

Students will be able to indicate whether they want to be in the classroom or be remote on a week-to-week basis, through a "dynamic scheduling" web app.

For those who want to attend on-campus classes, students and faculty will be required to wear masks and socially distance from each other inside the classroom.

Tufts University

Students at Tufts will be able to learn in-person, virtually, or a hybrid mix of both this fall semester, depending on their individual learning needs.

Tufts says any student who opts to attend in-person classes will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, tested regularly throughout the semester, and will be required to submit a daily health report.

Campus arrival dates are being staggered from August 16 to September 13 to allow students ample time to quarantine if necessary. Classes are scheduled to resume on September 8.

"Tufts will be de-densifying certain areas, implementing a residential cohort system, carefully sequencing move in and arrival, prohibiting guests from all residence halls, increasing cleaning, and providing special housing for students to isolate from others when medically necessary," said the University.

Students who plan to live on-campus will be put into "residential cohorts," which will range from 6 to 12 students. Off-campus students will be considered to be in a "cohort" with whomever else resides in their home.

UMass Boston

On June 22, the University of Massachusetts released a Preliminary Fall 2020 Planning Report, which said UMass Boston "should plan to devote itself to remote instruction for the fall semester."

"Comprehensive [COVID] testing – which ideally involves everyone coming to campus – is neither readily available and nor likely to be feasible or affordable in the near term," said UMass. "The ongoing planning process for a phased re-opening of our campus... will accelerate when the public health conditions permit."

If the situation allows for it, the University said it would consider bringing some limited student activities back on campus, otherwise only critical research and a handful of courses like nursing will be allowed to be attended in-person.

UMass will be offering on-campus housing for a significantly limited number of students, who will be prioritized by those whose families "live too far away for commuting to be feasible, and those who lack housing."

When the COVID-19 data signifies it is safe, UMass said it will enter the fourth stage of its five-stage reopening plan, which will include "additional campus life and research activities resuming on campus."

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