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Governor Cautiously Plans To Bring College Students Back In Phases

Governor Cautiously Plans To Bring College Students Back In Phases

CT Mirror, May 7, 2020

by Patrick Skahill

Connecticut will adopt a phased-in approach to reopening state colleges and universities, officials said Wednesday. The plan could mean research programs resume as early as May 20, but it remains unclear if campuses will reopen fully to students this fall.

“The plan is to move forward and try to conduct as much instruction in person as possible,” said Mark Ojakian, president of the state colleges and universities.

But Ojakian said officials are looking at a variety of contingency plans, including online learning programs for faculty and students who may not be able to return to campus due to a second wave of COVID-19 cases, travel restrictions or pre-existing health issues.

“We’re looking at all the options to make it as easy for students as possible,” Ojakian said.

UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said that, as the school plans for a widespread return to in-person learning in September, he still anticipates a “mix of in person and online options,” especially for international students.

“That will accomodate the health concerns for the faculty as well,” Katsouleas said.

Over the coming months, state officials said they envision rolling out a tiered plan for state colleges and universities.

The first stage of reopenings would coincide with Gov. Ned Lamont’s reopening date for some businesses: on May 20, administrative functions and research programs could begin to resume.

From there, officials said, non-residential workforce and degree completion programs would start back up in early summer, with an emphasis on fulfilling lab, studio, clinical, or shop requirements for community college students getting degrees this spring.  

Graduate programs back to top

In mid-July, some schools could resume graduate programs, if they choose, officials said.

State officials are targeting Sept. 1 as the date when undergraduate residential programs and boarding schools could resume, but cautioned all the reopening targets assume an improvement in public health conditions and a ramp up in COVID-19 testing.

Rick Levin, a co-chair on the education committee of Lamont’s “Reopen Connecticut Advisory Group,” said a lot depends on prevailing health conditions in the fall.

He said a rise in hospitalizations or any second wave of COVID-19, could quickly scuttle plans for any widespread reopening of campuses.

“Schools need to be flexible. They need to be ready to open, but they also need to be ready to move online if absolutely necessary,” Levin said.

Meanwhile, statewide hospitalization numbers trended back down Wednesday, dropping by 55 people. The total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations is now 1,445 and 2,718 people have died due to complications from the virus.

Lamont started his day at Hartford Hospital, where he spoke to a crowd of 575 health care workers who attended a National Nurses Week celebration to recognize the work nurses do, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.