Vassar College to explore possible resumption of in-person classes

POUGHKEEPSIE – Vassar College President Elizabeth Bradley has appointed an advisory committee, named VassarTogether, to develop guidelines for a potential return to largely in-person classes on campus this fall.

Members of the committee represent several areas in the college including  health and wellness, safety and security, environmental health and safety, human resources, health services, athletics, residential life, the Engaged Pluralism Initiative, and faculty from a diverse range of academic departments and programs. It is co-chaired by Dean of the College Carlos Alamo-Pastrana and Dean of the Faculty William Hoynes.

“The committee is working to develop a novel approach to enable students to return to campus and enroll in mostly in-person classes safely,” Bradley said. “It is predicated on our region meeting Governor Cuomo’s New York State guidelines for reopening; on public health guidelines for Dutchess County supporting higher education on campus; and on the availability of sufficient COVID-19 testing for the campus community.”

The president said life on campus will not look the same as it did pre-pandemic, but we believe it will still be enjoyable and meaningful.”

Bradley said plans are being finalized to include staggered drop-off days to limit density as students return.

Students would be tested for COVID-19 on campus at least twice in the first 14 days. Anyone experiencing symptoms would be tested immediately.

Students who test positive would be cared for in a separate dormitory area where food would be brought to the room and where the student could still access classes remotely. All students would take their temperature and report symptoms daily.

“We would also require that socializing be kept to a minimum in the beginning, with proper PPE (masks) and social distancing,” Bradley said. “As time went on, we would seek to open up more, and students could socialize and eat together in small groups. If any cases emerge, we would do contact tracing immediately with the local health department to identify anyone who may have been exposed and follow all State guidelines to provide recommended care. In all cases, we will follow Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines for proper public health safety.”

Bradley said she and members of VassarTogether were cognizant that science and public health guidelines may shift and require the college to continue remote teaching and learning. In that case, the college would reassess who needs to be living on campus due to vulnerabilities and hardships associated with studying at home, but all classes and activities would continue remotely.  “We are still exploring different ways of making the fall work,” the president said, “and we expect to have a comprehensive plan in the next month or so.”

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