Keene State College is moving forward with plans for a full return to in-person classes and events in the fall, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
These plans also include in-person athletic events, on-campus student activities and study abroad opportunities, Kelly Ricaurte, Keene State’s director of strategic communications and community relations, said in an email.
“With regard to prevalence and severity of COVID-19, we expect to be in a better place by the end of this summer with the vaccine rollout underway,” Keene State President Melinda Treadwell said in a written statement. “Our students have told us loud and clear that they want to be together on campus in our community. We are having a successful spring semester, and are actively planning a shift to additional on-campus and in-person community experiences for the fall 2021 semester.”
Keene State delayed the start of its spring semester by three weeks in an effort to wait out the winter surge in COVID-19 cases. Since the beginning of January, the school has reported 138 coronavirus cases among students and employees, according to Keene State’s online COVID-19 dashboard.
That number includes 16 new student infections last week, which the college reported Wednesday, continuing a downward trend since new cases hit a peak of 42 in the last week of February. Since then, Keene State has been testing students for COVID-19 twice a week. Employees are required to be tested once a week if they go into on-campus buildings, and have the option of twice-a-week tests.
Thus far this semester, the college has conducted 18,897 student and 6,582 employee tests. Keene State enrolls roughly 3,200 students and has approximately 700 employees.
This semester, Keene State students have the option to take four different types of classes: in-person, online, hybrid and blended. Hybrid classes offer a mix of in-person and online learning, with groups of students rotating days they receive in-person instruction. Blended courses feature in-class teaching, along with online components that can be completed anytime outside of class.
The college is also continuing this semester with all of the coronavirus mitigation protocols implemented in the fall, including a mask requirement on campus, physical distancing in classrooms and other shared spaces and a limit on the size of gatherings. Keene State is moving forward with plans for an in-person commencement ceremony May 29, but graduates will not be able to have any guests on campus for the occasion.
Looking ahead, Ricaurte said Keene State expects to continue COVID-19 testing, masking and physical distancing protocols in the fall semester. When needed, the college could also offer some online and hybrid classes next semester, she added.
And as Keene State keeps working on plans for the fall semester in the months ahead, Treadwell said college leaders will continue to make decisions based on data and government public health guidance.
“Safety guided by science will remain a priority in the fall, and we will continue to carefully monitor the pandemic to make decisions accordingly,” Treadwell said in the statement. “Ultimately, our goal is to continue to safely operate while we expand our on-campus student life and in-person learning experiences.”