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As COVID cases surge, area colleges prepare for return of students

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 4:28 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The University of Vermont and other colleges around the state are getting ready for students to return for the start of the spring semester, and with COVID cases surging nationwide, it’s going to look a little different than the fall.

Tents were going up this week at UVM that will create extra space for students to study or eat when they return to campus. Classes start February 1st and officials say students will have to complete a two-week quarantine first.

“It is a lot different from the summer, but also simpler because basically it’s either you have to quarantine at UVM or prior to coming here,” said Gary Derr, UVM’s vice president of operations.

Students who can not directly travel to campus will arrive Tuesday and be placed in a hotel to isolate and get tested. Those who can travel by car are expected to quarantine at home and test negative for COVID before they leave for Vermont.

Officials say they plan to continue that strict regimen with a test for students when they arrive and then once a week for the rest of the semester. Derr says the school is also offering more opportunities to be social and safe. “What we really invested a lot in is making information available for programs on campus and off-campus, things like snowshoeing, cross-country skiing,” he said.

Other schools, including Norwich University, are also preparing for students to come back. “We learned a lot from the fall semester and we are leveraging that good knowledge,” said the University’s Daphne Larkin.

She says remote classes started this week and students start coming back to campus Friday. Like UVM, all students are expected to quarantine at home and test negative before they arrive, and then get tested again on campus. “After getting tested, they go back to their room for what we are calling a modified room quarantine,” Larkin said.

Norwich didn’t test every student every week last fall but will this semester. Classes there go from remote to in-person starting in February.

Vermont State College System officials say that Castleton -- which was fully remote last semester -- will have a hybrid approach like Northern Vermont University had last semester.

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