BEVERLY — Quarantine wards, single-room dormitories, mandatory masks, online lectures and routine COVID-19 testing: All will be part of the campus environment this fall, as public and private colleges in Massachusetts implement safety measures to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
Endicott College President Steven DiSalvo says the picturesque waterfront campus in Beverly will look a lot different for returning students.
“When people return to this campus, they’re going to give up some freedoms,” DiSalvo told a small gathering of business leaders at the college Wednesday. “We have to change behavior to keep people safe.”
Everyone entering campus must have a mask or face covering, and the college will strictly enforce the rules.
Faculty, staff and students returning to campus will be tested for COVID-19, he said, after which “surveillance testing” will be conducted weekly or bi-weekly.
“If you test positive we have to quarantine you, and we have reserved space on our campus to be able to do that,” DiSalvo said.
Students will be allowed to live on campus, but dorm sizes will be reduced and common areas modified to allow social distancing, he said. Food from the cafeteria will be made to go. No more buffets or self-serve salad bars. Video surveillance will track how many students are in the dining areas to prevent overcrowding.
Gordon College President Michael Lindsay said the college plans to make use of its 500 acres to spread out students.
“We’re trying create an educational environment where everyone stays safe but also continues in their education,” he told the gathering.
One of the biggest questions is whether students will be learning in a classroom, dorm room, or sitting behind a desk at home.
A number of top colleges, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have announced plans to conduct their fall terms almost entirely remotely.
The University of Massachusetts’ five campuses are planning a mix of in-person and remote coursework for the fall semester. UMass Amherst, the state university’s flagship campus, will allow some students to live on campus even with the switch to remote learning.
Most schools have drawn up multiple plans to deal with whatever the situation may be in late-August, when students typically return to campus.
Massachusetts is one of the few states where COVID-19 cases and deaths are declining, but health officials warn of a possible second wave of infections in the fall.
Locally, some schools with experience in online teaching plan say they plan to switch almost entirely to remote instruction this fall.
Northern Essex Community College President Lane Glenn said the two-campus school plans to hold about 80% of its classes online. Full-time students will be required to have laptops, he said, and the college will make them available to those who cannot afford them.
“We’ve been offering online classes for a while and we’re pretty good at it, so we’re confident about the quality of those offerings,” Glenn said in an interview.
Nate Bryant, interim president of North Shore Community College, points out that remote learning remains a challenge for many low-income students.
“We have students whose home situation is not conducive to a quiet environment,” he said. “They’ve got children, they’ve got family members, and they may not even have a desk.”
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.