ORONO, Maine — If you've driven through the University of Maine campus in Orono since mid-March, you've noticed the emptiness and quietness of a place where thousands of college kids live.
When the coronavirus spread to every region and state in the country, colleges and universities took quick action as every school wrapped up its spring semester online.
After months of planning and uncertainty, the thousands of students apart of the University of Maine System will be back on campus this upcoming fall.
“(Our goal is) to make sure the community is safe and stays that way through our actions," Interim Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost at UMaine Orono Faye Gilbert said.
To help with the safety, Jackson Lab and Convenient MD Urgent Care are partnering with UMaine to test all students for COVID-19 upon arrival to campus and throughout the semester.
“It’s important that we continue to live and we continue to learn," Gibert added.
If a student tests positive for COVID-19, UMaine will be prepared.
“We have blocks of rooms for quarantine or self-isolation purposes," Gilbert said.
Once on campus, the goal is to keep students in Orono to keep the UMaine community safe. Dining halls, the recreational center, and extracurricular activities will be offered with restrictions and will follow social distancing guidelines.
Classes will be held in lecture halls or classrooms with reduced attendance, others will be hybrid courses, and some will be strictly online. Then once students leave for Thanksgiving break, the final two weeks and final exams will be done online.
While students prepare for the return to the classroom, UMaine student-athletes are preparing for their fall seasons.
Athletes living 30 miles or closer from Orono are allowed to participate in individual, voluntary workouts. All workouts are being held outside as a build-up to specific sport training programs and eventually preseason camp.
Getting the student-athletes on the practice field isn't a problem, the biggest problem is traveling to games.
“Travel is going to be a concern, I mean you take a look at our schedule we are all over the place for the first couple of weeks of the season," Athletic Director Ken Ralph said.
In Orono and within every college program, CDC guidelines will be met and restrictions will be strict.
“But is every place your student going to be touching along the route have the same type of procedures in place and follow our strict standards?" Ralph asked.
Besides traveling to games, the question of fans being allowed to watch competitions is another big issue, but for right now not at the top of the priority list.
“Right now, we’re not worried about having fans in the stands, we’re worried about can we actually play," Ralph said.
The first big crowd event will be the first home football game scheduled for September 12 when the Black Bears host the University of Deleware.