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Graduate student Abigail Konig, left, works with staff member Michelle Wood during the weekly COVID-19 testing at the college in October.

Keene State College students are scheduled to return home by the middle of next week and finish the semester remotely, but college leaders are already planning for students’ return in the spring.

The college will begin the second semester a week later than originally planned, and students won’t get a spring break, both measures designed to limit the risks of COVID-19 potentially spreading at the school as officials plan for the rest of the academic year. The later start takes the place of the canceled spring break, and classes will continue straight from late January to late April.

Students will not return to campus after Thanksgiving break, and will conclude the first semester with virtual final exams, which are set for Dec. 2-5. Classes are slated to resume Jan. 25, according to a webpage dedicated to Keene State’s spring semester plans.

Before then, all students, faculty and staff will be required to test negative for COVID-19. Keene State will provide several options for these pre-arrival tests to ensure the results are in before the semester starts, including offering drive-up testing on campus from Jan. 15-19. The college is also working on a mail-home test, said college spokeswoman Kelly Ricaurte.

“We’ll then check in students the weekend of January 22 and also on January 25 and 26. The check-in requires proof of their negative result from the pre-arrival test,” she said.

Students also will receive COVID-19 tests this coming Thursday and Friday so they know their health status before returning home for Thanksgiving. The college has been testing all students and employees weekly throughout the fall semester, and will continue that strategy in the spring, President Melinda Treadwell said.

“We’re not going to retreat from that,” Treadwell said in an interview last month, noting that the mass testing has been key to Keene State’s ability to keep students on campus throughout the fall by limiting the spread of the virus, along with measures such as mask-wearing and physical distancing on campus, and restricting the number of students in dorms and classrooms.

According to the most recent data on Keene State’s online COVID-19 dashboard, the college has conducted more than 33,000 COVID-19 tests this semester, and 18 students and one employee have tested positive for the viral respiratory illness. Keene State has about 3,200 students and roughly 700 employees.

Treadwell added that the process for this mass testing will remain the same. Each Thursday and Friday, all students and employees are assigned a time slot to come through Spaulding Gymnasium, where representatives from Stewart’s Ambulance Service collect samples by taking nasal swabs. After getting tested, all students and employees receive a wristband, which is a different color each week. No one is allowed in any buildings on campus unless they are wearing the correctly colored wristband.

Keene State students will have the option to take four different types of classes in the spring semester: 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.

With spring break canceled, primarily to limit potential exposure to COVID-19 through travel, Keene State classes will continue uninterrupted from Jan. 25 to April 30. Final exams are scheduled to begin with a reading day on May 3, and conclude on May 8. According to the college’s website, officials “are cautiously optimistic that commencement will take place on May 8.”Jack Rooney can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or jrooney@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @RooneyReports.

Jack Rooney can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or jrooney@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @RooneyReports.