Vassar College has announced students will be returning to campus this August with a long list of precautions in place.
"We have spent really the last several weeks studying the issues understanding what's happening in New York, understanding the epidemiology,” said Vassar College President Elizabeth Bradley. "We decided it was possible to invite our students back for class."
Vassar’s campus is empty now but will soon be bustling with students again starting mid-August. From Aug. 15 to Aug. 30 a couple hundred students will move in at a time to facilitate social distancing. But they’ll have to be tested for COVID-19 before they arrive.
"They are all going to be required to produce evidence that they’ve had a negative test result for COVID-19," said Bradley.
If a student can’t get tested at home the school will send them a test and once they arrive on campus testing will continue.
"For everyone who does come with a negative test we’ll probably wait another two or three days and we’ll test them again and then after that we’ll test them one more time,” said Bradley.
So what happens if a student tests positive on campus?
"We will immediately create what we have called a self-quarantine area and in addition do the contact tracing," said Bradley.
Each student be will be required to do periodic self-health checks online and sign a community care pledge agreeing to follow school guidelines.
"Students must maintain six foot distance and be masked," said Bradley. "Now inside the dormitory they don’t need to be and we do anticipate students will get together for organizations and events but they’ll maintain six feet distance and a mask for those."
Perhaps the most difficult protocol to enforce: students will be required to stay on campus at all times.
"We're realists and we know that in fact there are going to be times they're not necessarily going to be doing all the pieces of this we’re asking them to do," said Bradley. "We can't monitor them 24/7 in their dormitories, if we get students here they're all tested and they're all negative, then stay on this campus, you're not going to have any other exposures.”
Some classes will be held indoors with social distancing and limits on classroom capacity. Others will be held outside in tents.
But for students and faculty who are still not comfortable returning, classes will be on a blended curriculum. The school is installing cameras and microphones in classrooms so professors can livestream their classes; a total package of protocols President Bradley, a member of Gov. Cuomo's Reopening Advisory Board, believes is the best way to keep students and faculty safe.
"Vassar is always a place that is pretty bold and pretty ready to be innovative; we’re living up to our reputation now,” said Bradley.