POUGHKEEPSIE – With a firm set of health and safety protocols in place, Vassar College has revealed its plans for bringing students back to campus in the fall. That was President Elizabeth Bradley’s message to the Vassar community in an announcement this week. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campus has been virtually closed since March, with only a few students and staff remaining.
The plan for returning to campus was developed by VassarTogether, a committee of administrators, faculty, students and staff co-chaired by Dean of the College Carlos-Alamo-Pastrana and Dean of Faculty William Hoynes. It calls for the arrival of small groups of students to campus on staggered dates starting August 15, with classes beginning on August 31. Students who are unable to return to campus or who choose not to do so will be able to take courses remotely.
President Bradley said she was confident the plan contained the necessary safeguards to ensure the health and safety of everyone who returns to the campus. “We are committed to doing everything we can to keep our community safe and healthy on campus this fall,” she said in her message to the Vassar community.
Serving as a member of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Forward advisory board, President Bradley said Vassar’s guidelines for returning to campus are consistent with all state, regional and local public health recommendations.
The college will employ a combination of regular self-health assessments, physical distancing, hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting, masking, testing, contact tracing, self-quarantine, and isolation to sustain the health of the Vassar community. In order to be permitted on campus, students must show evidence of a negative coronavirus test result taken 3-5 days before they arrive. They will be required to be tested on campus within the first days of move in and tested again several days later.
Students will be required to wear a mask or face covering at all times except when they are in their room or apartment. Students may socialize with each other but must keep 6-feet of distance from each other and wear a mask indoors. Outdoors, a mask will be required while in transit (walking) but can be removed if one is 6-feet distanced from others and stationary outdoors. Dining will be grab-and-go only for at least the first part of the semester.
Classes will be conducted in classrooms and outside when appropriate with adequate technology support and accessibility using tents and awnings, all with social distancing protocols in place. Classrooms will be equipped with needed technology to support hybrid classes that are taught both in person and remotely. Students must remain on campus until the Thanksgiving break, then complete the last week and a half of fall classes, study period, and final exams remotely. Students would then remain off-campus for the Winter Break and return for the spring semester in late-January.
All members of the Vassar community—including faculty and all employees—will be expected to uphold community care expectations in order to ensure everyone’s health and safety. To reduce density on campus in the fall, some administrators and staff will continue to work remotely, Bradley said.