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Recommendations Revealed for Phased Reopening of Conn. Colleges, Universities

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A plan to reopen Connecticut's colleges and universities would likely be phased throughout the summer with the aim of in-person instruction in the fall, according to recommendations given to Gov. Ned Lamont by the Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group.

The goal at the end of the phased reopening is to allow the state's higher education institutions to be able to reopen for the fall semester, if progress continues to be made against the coronavirus, the governor's office said in a press release.

Each school would be free to decide if they need more time for certain programs before restarting.

“Our colleges and universities are the springboard for so many to launch their careers, and they are an economic engine of the state,” Governor Lamont said. “And of course it can’t go without saying that Connecticut’s great research universities are working to help bring an end to the current pandemic. Given the heterogeneity of our colleges and universities, one size won’t fit all, which is why we need carefully tailored guidelines for differing parts of this sector. This framework to reopen our higher education institutions is a vital component of our overall plan to reopen Connecticut.”

Before reopening, any institution would have to file reopening plans with the state Department of Public Health laying out how they will repopulate the campus, likely in a phased way; monitor health conditions; contain a spread if detected; and shut down the campus if necessary.

Schools will have to follow public health guidelines from the state, including:

  • Social distancing of six feet whenever possible
  • Density in classrooms, dining halls and other area should be designed for social distancing when possible
  • Faculty, staff and students should wear masks

Under the plan, roommates and suitemates would be considered a family unit and exempt from social distancing rules, but social distancing would need to be followed with other dorm occupants.

The schools would have to follow these guidelines until the state relaxed them.

In addition, the report recommends that testing play a major role in the opening process.

"All this requires a major commitment of tests," the report reads. "If all residential colleges and boarding schools reopen in the fall, we estimate that between 200,000 and 300,000 tests will be needed in late August/early September, with additional quantities needed over the course of the fall semester, as determined by public health guidance. The State needs to ensure that such supplies are available to campuses, and that provision for test administration and processing is in place

The phased in reopening would take place as follows, according to the recommendations from the advisory group:

  • Research programs and administration functions would be able to reopen as planned on May 20
  • Early in the summer, workforce development programs could reopen and welcome any students who could not complete some of their degree requirements
  • By mid-July, other nonresidential education programs could reopen and some graduate programs could resume
  • By the end of summer, undergraduate residential institutions may reopen if they choose, if health conditions allow

The committee stressed there is no one size fits all approach for all the schools.

Online learning may still be provided in certain scenarios or there may be a hybrid option for classes where they are a mix of both, the committee said.

University of Connecticut president Thomas Katsouleas said no decision has been made by the NCAA about fall sports but the hope is to "return to full operation."

Rick Levin, former president of Yale University, and Linda Lorimer, former vice president of global and strategic initiatives at Yale University helped prepare the recommendations.

Some institutions could see a decline in enrollment for the upcoming year as students for various reasons choose not to return or are unable to return, Levin said.

There are approximately 190,000 students enrolled in higher education around the state with 45,000 residents working in these institutions.

The campuses of Connecticut’s colleges and universities have been closed since March and the schools transitioned from in-person learning to distance learning.

A link to the full report and recommendations can be found here.

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