Smith College invites over 1,800 students back to campus for spring 

  • Smith College students cross the central campus in Northampton. FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2020 2:08:55 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College intends to welcome up to 1,830 students back to campus housing in the spring semester, the college announced on Monday.

In a message to the Smith community, president Kathleen McCartney said that, although COVID-19 cases are surging around the country and on some college campuses, Smith officials feel well-equipped to manage the pandemic on campus.

“This is a serious situation, and one we are monitoring carefully,” McCartney said. “At the same time, well-managed campus communities provide a number of insights that suggest we can continue to keep campus positivity rates very low with students in residence.”

McCartney pointed to low positivity rates at other colleges that have instituted strong COVID-19 management plans and effectiveness of public health measures.

“By combining these strategies with single-room housing for every student and enhanced cleaning protocols, the college will be able to welcome most students back this spring to live and study in community,” she said.

Around 1,700 students expressed interest in living on campus in a survey, McCartney said, but the college is prepared to host over 100 more. The college enrolls more than 2,400 undergraduates, according to its website. Students have until Dec. 1 to decide if they want to live on campus during the spring. The college operated remotely in the fall and recorded three positive COVID-19 cases.

While the college anticipates that it will have space for all interested students who want to live on campus based on the survey results, certain groups of students will be prioritized if more express interest beyond the college’s capacity.

Those who do live on campus must adhere to measures such as twice-weekly COVID-19 testing and wearing face masks. Depending on the local and statewide severity of COVID-19, some restrictions, such as whether students can visit other houses or use common areas, will be in flux.

About half of the college’s spring courses will be offered in an exclusively remote manner, while the other half will blend in-person and remote learning. A small number of classes, such as performance arts and lab courses, will be held fully in person.

Students will arrive on campus in phases beginning three to four weeks before classes start on Feb. 15.

McCartney encouraged students to consider that “plans for the spring could change at any point based on the severity of the pandemic or if federal, state or local regulations change.”

Other college plans

Based on current plans by the Five Colleges, thousands more college students will return to campus housing in the spring semester.

Amherst College, which instituted a system where students must stay within the area of a “bubble” surrounding campus, has recorded a total of 14 cases among students, staff and faculty since August. Nine of those cases were identified in November.

The college hosted around 60% of its usual population in the fall, and in the spring, intends to welcome all students except sophomores back to campus, totaling around 1,200 students on campus. According to its website, the college enrolls 1,849 students overall.

Hampshire College, which welcomed its full student body back and hosted fewer than 600 students, has reported a total of seven cases between on-campus and off-campus students and employees. The college will again welcome all students back to campus in the spring, anticipating around 500.

Mount Holyoke, like Smith, operated remotely for the fall semester and reported four positive cases since Aug. 12. The college will also shift to a partially in-person semester in the spring, welcoming up to 60% of its students back to campus. The college enrolls 2,190 undergraduates.

The University of Massachusetts Amherst hosted around 1,100 students on campus for the fall, greatly reduced from its regular on-campus population of around 14,000 students. In the spring, the college will welcome about 60% of this usual population back to campus, most of whom will be freshmen or entering transfer students.

The university had recorded a total of 401 cases among its community as of Monday afternoon. Off-campus students have made up the vast majority of these cases, totaling 354 of the positive results. Twenty-four on-campus students also have tested positive, as well as 24 staff and three faculty members.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com. 

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