The much-anticipated return to campus is underway, as Washington College students began arriving in staggered groups earlier this week. This move-in period will continue until Jan. 30, with spring classes set to begin online on Feb. 1. After closing campus in March 2020 in response to the pandemic and remaining closed for the fall 2020 semester due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to COVID, the arrival of students marks the official re-opening of campus after almost a year.
“Our students are ready for this, and we are certainly ready for them,” said Dr. Wayne Powell, Interim President. “Many people have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes to make this safe return possible, and now welcoming students back onto campus is the great reward. The start of a new semester is always exciting and even with all the challenges we still face due to COVID, there is much to look forward to as these students have many big things to accomplish.”
The re-opening plan that allowed for this includes a full slate of safety measures, to include:
- De-densified campus
- All students are housed in single rooms, with limited sharing of fixtures
- Staff who are able to continue to work remotely are again approved to do so for this semester
- Common areas are either closed or have limited capacity with time limits implemented
- Instruction will remain online until at least the end of March. If conditions allow for it, the expectation is that at least some classes will transition to in-person after the shortened Spring Break (3/26-3/27).
- A 14-day quarantine requirement for all students upon arrival.
- Comprehensive COVID testing program all semester, to include gateway testing and ongoing surveillance testing, in addition to testing for symptomatic cases
- Dedicated housing and support for students requiring quarantine or isolation due to COVID symptoms or positive test results
“Many students have eagerly been awaiting their return to campus. Even with the continuation of virtual classes, we are excited to be reunited with our fellow students and with the Chestertown community,” said Elizabeth Lilly, a senior and current SGA President. “This semester will be far from normal, and students are well aware of that, but collectively we look forward to restoring a more comfortable balance between physically distancing and still experiencing a stronger sense of community.”
Students were not required to return – anyone who wished to continue virtually had that option. Roughly one-third of enrolled students will continue their academics at home.
Those students who opted to live on campus or who are approved for off-campus housing are required to quarantine in-place for the first 14 days upon arrival. Additionally, all of these students will be tested for COVID upon arrival and then again 12-14 days later.
In a nod to the reality that this return to campus doesn’t equal a complete return to pre-COVID times, the SGA celebrated this return by unveiling the “12 Days of Quarantine”, an event featuring 12 days of fun events available to all students. These activities include everything from scavenger hunts to yoga sessions and will help to keep students connected and busy while complying with the initial quarantine period.
Student Affairs will also be announcing events and activities that provide ways for all students – those staying virtual and on campus – to stay connected. For those on campus, one basic recommendation is to take advantage of the fresh air and in particular the beauty of the waterfront campus by getting outdoors as much as possible.
Following their initial gateway testing and quarantine, students will be re-tested for COVID every other week. Any student who does test positive will be housed in a dorm reserved just for those in isolation, if they cannot travel home safely. A dedicated Quaratine & Isolation team will provide 24/7 support to any student that is relocated to either quarantine or isolation dorm at any point during the semester.
College employees whose responsibilities require that they report to campus for work will also be included in this surveillance testing pool, with the frequency of the testing being determined by their level of interaction with students. To see results from this ongoing COVID testing, visit the Dashboard.
The operations of the College will be guided by the Alert Level, which is being evaluated daily, and factors in testing data, capacity within the isolation and quarantine housing, local and state positivity rates and other key indicators. The Alert Level scales from Green to Red, with conditions on campus becoming more restrictive moving towards Red. Currently the college is operating in Yellow, which is largely due to community factors such as the overall positivity rate in Kent County. To date, the influx of students has not resulted in any new COVID cases.
To reinforce the safety practices that remain in effect due to COVID, the spring semester re-opening has been branded under a “Better Together” theme that encourages everyone to do their part – wear a mask, maintain social distance, stay home if sick, show up for COVID testing, etc. – to keep the Washington College community together on campus. Signage throughout campus reinforces this messaging, and social media is being used to further broadcast these themes. Follow along on Instagram (@WashColl) and Facebook.
About Washington College
Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.