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St. Joseph's College announces 'phased exit plan' amid COVID-19 surge

After twelve students test positive for COVID-19, St. Joseph's College in Standish will send all students home and transition to fully remote learning

STANDISH, Maine — St. Joseph's College is sending all students home for the semester after a rise in COVID-19 cases on campus.

The school announced Sunday, November 15 that it will begin a "phased exit plan that will transition campus residents and commuter students from campus to their homes over the coming week." All students will be tested for the virus before leaving campus. 

The school says all classes after this coming week will be conducted remotely from home or other off-campus locations. 

This action follows twelve new positive COVID-19 cases on campus. The school is pointing to a recent "sharp rise in student conduct that has enabled the virus to spread more quickly." 

Students are expected to return to campus for the spring semester, which typically begins in January.

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The following is the letter sent to students by the St. Joseph's College administration: 

Dear Saint Joseph’s campus community,

When we began this unusual semester, we agreed to abide by the Monk Strong Community Pledge - a set of guidelines designed to keep each of us, and all of us, as safe as possible. The vast majority of this community has committed to the Pledge every day since then. So many of us sustained our focus in order to stay on-campus until the end of the semester, and it showed. We thank you.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in so many places across the world, COVID-19 doesn’t care if most of us have agreed to be safe. It looks for openings, and it has now found some here on campus. A handful of students have decided not to keep their commitment to our community, through their own personal choices. The actions of some are affecting the conclusion of the semester for all.

We now have twelve students who have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past week. While we want to stress that a COVID-19 diagnosis is not necessarily a reflection of behavior, we have recently seen a sharp rise in student conduct that has enabled the virus to spread more quickly.

We are responding to this situation with a phased exit plan that will transition campus residents and commuter students from campus to their homes over the coming week. All classes after this week will be conducted remotely from home or other off-campus locations.

This is how the exit plan will work:

  1. All resident students will be tested according to the schedule below. Students will receive a reminder email of their testing appointment from the Health Center. Exit testing will begin tomorrow (Monday) and end on Thursday, November 19th.

Monday, November 16th: St. Joe’s & Standish Halls

Tuesday, November 17th: Carmel, Cassidy, Canneen Halls

Wednesday, November 18th: Gingras & Feeney Halls

Thursday, November 19th: Currier Hall

Because of the 24-hour turnaround time for test results, those tested Monday should prepare to leave campus on Tuesday afternoon, and so on. The final group of campus residents will leave campus on Friday, November 20th.

Once you receive a negative test result, you should be prepared to leave campus immediately. If any situation prevents you from leaving campus or returning home safely within this timeframe, you should contact the Health Center directly.

If your exit test comes back positive, arrangements will be made through the Health and Wellness Center. The College will also notify the CDC as part of our safety protocols.

Classes will continue this week through the end of the semester. Faculty members will decide whether they will be holding their classes in person or remotely.

Commuter students will be able to sign up to receive a test at the Health and Wellness Center, at their own discretion, but they should plan to attend class remotely for the remainder of the fall semester and not return to campus.

For students who cannot return home, you will be asked to contact Residential Living and complete the College’s Break Housing Form, and articulate the specific reasons for your request to remain on campus. This option is only reserved for rare circumstances where students are unable to travel safely or return to safe housing.

Student-workers will receive follow-up communication from Human Resources early this week once decisions are made regarding student employment.

This exit plan has been carefully considered with input from the Maine CDC and is based on maintaining your health, the health of this community, our students’ families, and other communities far and wide.

Please do not leave campus before receiving a negative exit test result. If you decide to leave before getting your result, your ability to return to campus housing for Spring Semester may be compromised.

This is not the way we wanted our campus experience to end this semester, but this is the safest way forward for everyone. It is a good reminder that vigilance is necessary from all of us to be able to live at Saint Joe’s during a pandemic. We hope that we can all return to campus in the Spring with a renewed commitment to each other.

Thank you,

The Pandemic Response Team