Upper Valley braces for return of Dartmouth students

Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 3:07 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 19, 2020 at 11:45 AM EDT
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HANOVER, N.H. (WCAX) - It took just a week for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to suspend in-person instruction for undergrads after a COVID-19 outbreak among students. Some fear that is a sign of things to comes for colleges in our region, including Dartmouth.

Thousands of college students are set to arrive in Hanover, New Hampshire, in less than a month. And that has some members of the community like Ken Hayes feeling nervous and anxious.

"Yeah, I do worry," said Hayes, who works at a hardware store in Lyme. His wife works at Dartmouth and their son is going into his freshman year a Hanover High School. "It doesn't need to be tens thousand guys in a bar being idiots, it can be 60 guys up the street being idiots."

Skyler Tompkins is a rising junior at Hanover High, which is just a couple blocks from the Hanover green. "I want to keep going to school and I'm worried that if there is an outbreak here, it will be because of the college students, and then both the college and the high school will have to go back into remote," Tompkins said.

They are just two of the concerned residents in this community waiting for college students from all over the world to return to campus.

"We would like to be confident, but the behavior that we've seen this summer on the part of some students -- not all -- off campus, has given a lot of us pause," said Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin.

Dartmouth has released detailed guidance for undergrads this upcoming fall semester. It includes testing, a 48-hour initial quarantine, more testing, and a gradual loosening of restrictions. Masks and social-distancing will also be required in all buildings. Visitors and large social gatherings will not be allowed -- meaning no big parties.

Griffin says the students are welcome back to the community, but she’s says everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction. “Downtown Hanover and the Upper Valley business community is absolutely dependent on it, our school districts are dependent on it, all of us as parents and working professionals are dependent on it,” she said.

Hanover recently passed a mask ordinance of its own which includes high traffic areas outdoors like downtown sidewalks. She says she's been pleasantly surprised by compliance. But, the true test comes when the college students arrive.

Reporter Adam Sullivan: How do you tell a college kid not to party?

Julia Griffin: It's hard, it's hard, and I wish I had the easy answer.

Taylor Soule grew up in the Upper Valley and leaves for Boston College in about a week. "I want to say, and I want to hope that if you want to be on campus you are going to follow the rules. ow much people are actually going to do that I'm not too sure though," she said.

College officials have not responded to requests for comment about how they plans to test all the students.

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