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Bates College will invite students back to campus for fall semester

President Clayton Spencer says all students and staff will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival on campus, with follow-up testing as appropriate.

LEWISTON, Maine — Bates College President Clayton Spencer said the school will invite students back to campus this fall, as uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues across Maine and the U.S.

In a letter posted to Bates' website Monday morning, Spencer wrote, 'Based on exhaustive consultation and planning, we are confident that we can make it safe to do so, assuming that we have broad commitment across the campus community.'

Spencer added that students who are not on campus will have the opportunity to take courses remotely. She also acknowledged that as public health circumstances change or issues arise, the college may need to adapt its plan.

According to Spencer, all students and staff will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival on campus, with follow-up testing as appropriate.

Here's what the letter said under its 'Health and Safety' heading:

Paramount in our planning is our responsibility to protect the health and safety of our campus and local communities. Given that it will likely be a number of months, if not longer, before an effective vaccine against the coronavirus is broadly available, the question we face is not whether we can open Bates in person, but how we can do so safely, by adopting policies and practices proven to mitigate the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19. 

From the moment in March when we asked students to leave campus and complete their winter semester remotely, we have worked diligently to develop a comprehensive approach to managing through the pandemic that depends on interlocking layers. We have adapted our academic calendar, our daily schedules, our teaching strategies, and every aspect of our operations to reduce the potential for spreading infection. Additionally, we will ask everyone in our community to participate in testing and contact tracing, and to observe basic public health practices, including self-monitoring for symptoms, physical distancing, face coverings, hand-washing, and limiting the size of gatherings. 

We have consulted regularly with our medical partners at Central Maine Medical Center, with our faculty who have expertise in relevant areas, and with national experts in infectious disease and public health at the Mayo Clinic, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins. We pay close attention to the guidance coming from the Center for Disease Control in Maine and nationally, and we have adapted our workplace safety policies to comply with guidance issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. We are governed by the state of Maine’s requirements for reopening the economy in phases, and we will continue to monitor infection rates, local healthcare capacity, and evolving state guidance as the summer progresses. 

We have made decisions for the fall in response to this expert advice and to questions and concerns we have heard from faculty and staff on campus, and from students and families seeking to make plans for the coming year. Our planning has also been informed by the recognition that when we speak of protecting the safety of our community, our concept of safety must encompass a commitment to the work of antiracism and diligent efforts to protect members of our community from bias. 

The first day of classes at Bates is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 2. Spencer said the school is still developing a detailed plan for a phased approach to new students moving into dorms, and that they will share more information in the next few weeks so that students and their families can plan.

Other changes include scheduled eating times at campus dining halls and an adapted course schedule and format. All students will also be required to sign an agreement to adhere to a set of prevention policies and protocols.  

More information on Bates College's plan can be found HERE.

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