Vermont releases guidance for college reopenings

Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 8:56 AM EDT
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Upward of 56,000 students who attend college in the area now know under what conditions they can return to campus this fall. The question now for Vermont's higher education institutions is -- how many will want to?

"I believe we can take this step forward in the fall," Scott said.

"The state of Vermont aims to make Vermont the safest place to go to college," said former Norwich University president Rich Schneider, who volunteered to lead the state's task force to craft the guidelines for students and staff. They include:

• Mandatory testing and quarantine for students returning to campus.

• A health safety contract that students and staff have to sign

and that officials say will be enforced to make sure people aren't putting others at risk. Penalties could be anything from a warning to expulsion from campus.

• Students and staff will be screened each day.

• Dining will be at assigned times or takeout.

• Classrooms will space students six-feet apart.

• Masks will be mandatory.

• No more than two students living in a dorm room.

• Students will likely be sent home at Thanksgiving and return in the

spring to minimize travel.

• A hybrid of online and in-person classes.

• Athletics is still in question.

Despite all the changes, Schneider says students still want to come back to campus and that it's up to them to act in a way that doesn't put others at risk. "We have to make it the social norm that that's not a good idea and it's not cool to do that -- you are risking your classmates' lives and their parents and their faculty members and their loved ones. That's not an adult behavior," he said.

But students we spoke with in Burlington were skeptical of their peers. "We have rules now that we don't follow," said Zoe Kennedy, an environmental studies major.

Kennedy and Megan Richardson are both juniors at UVM. Richardson is going to be an RA next year and is worried about having to enforce all the guidelines. "It would put the RAs in a tough spot," said the political science major.

Kennedy says while she knows the year will be different, she's hearing from fellow students who are frustrated about paying full tuition for a partial experience. "A lot of people are really disappointed that it's not going to be exactly the same as normal college would be, especially since we're still paying full price to attend school," she said.

Naomi Chandler, a UVM Junior, was among several students who said the online learning often isn't as effective. "There's definitely some things I would miss from online classes. Like I definitely wouldn't get as much out of my classes from them being online," said the zoology major. "It's so unsure, and we kind of feel like we might end up in the same place we were last semester pretty much."

Another group of students that's in limbo is international students. The federal government has said if their learning happens online, they may not be able to stay in the country. Vermont officials Tuesday indicated they oppose that move and are hoping the feds will make a different call.