Smith College releases fall 2020 reopening plan, ‘A Culture of Care’

  • The Grecourt Gates of Smith College on Elm Street in Northampton. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 7/6/2020 2:35:49 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College expects to have about 60% of its students back on campus in the fall with additional COVID-19 targeted public health measures in place, the college announced Monday.

Under Smith’s fall 2020 reopening plan, “A Culture of Care,” all students can return to campus housing for at least one semester; freshmen and sophomores can return for the fall semester only, while juniors and seniors can return for the spring semester. Most classes will be designed to accommodate both in-person and remote learning, depending on choices by students and instructors, and the semester will start and end early, with fall break eliminated and students completing final exams at home after Thanksgiving. 

New transfer students, Ada Comstock scholars and some international students and student leaders will be allowed to stay on campus for the full year, and those “with extraordinary circumstances” can petition to stay on-campus throughout the year. Students graduating in January may also return to campus in the fall.

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, college President Kathleen McCartney said that the community must adhere to four broad actions: physical distancing in housing and classrooms; regular testing and isolation; disinfecting high-touch surfaces; and campus-wide compliance with public safety measures, such as wearing face masks, physical distancing, self-screening and good hand-washing hygiene.

“This last action represents a vital, shared, sustained responsibility,” McCartney said in an email to the college community, referring to compliance. “We need to practice these behaviors not only for ourselves but also for others, especially those students, staff and faculty who are at higher risk of serious outcomes should they contract COVID-19.”

When contacted by the Gazette, a college spokeswoman did not provide an update for how many staff members will be required to return to campus in the fall.

All students living in Smith housing will have a single-occupancy dorm room, and the college will place limits on how many students can live on a floor and share a bathroom.

College officials may adjust plans depending on the local COVID-19 outlook, and a higher number of students may be able to return in the spring depending on data trends.

The college will also make financial adjustments: Smith will not enact its planned tuition increase this year due to the financial stress COVID-19 has placed on students and families, and room and board costs for students living in college housing will be prorated to reflect the shortened semester. Students receiving financial aid will have their personal expenses allowance increased by $2,000 per year, and expected work-study earnings have been cut by 50%.

Additionally, sports teams will not compete in the fall.

Similar plans were previously announced at Mount Holyoke College as well as at Amherst College, where mostly underclassmen will be invited to return to campus in the fall while upperclassmen can return in the spring. 

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has invited an uncapped number of students back to campus, though most courses will be taught remotely.

All students can return to campus at Hampshire under social distancing guidelines and an adjusted academic calendar.

Smith classes will begin Sept. 1. The spring semester will start Feb. 15 and conclude May 21, with commencement scheduled for May 30.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at
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