UVM leaders confident classes will resume on campus in fall

Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 11:55 AM EDT
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Big questions remain about when it will be safe to go back to school. The University of Vermont announced on Wednesday that it is confident students will be able to return to campus this fall. Our Dom Amato spoke with UVM's president and students about the decision.

President Suresh Garimella says the decision is based in science and data. He says the school has been in touch with state leaders and the health department. But he says even though students may come back to campus, things won't likely be back to normal this fall.

"I'm happy about it," said Grace Kay, a junior.

"I'm excited because it's my last year at UVM, so therefore I'm looking forward to seeing all the professors and walking around campus again and getting into a schedule," said Laura Martin, a junior.

UVM students are anxious to get back to campus learning.

"We are welcoming students in the fall," UVM President Suresh Garimella announced in a video message to the community.

Garimella says school officials are closely monitoring the pandemic curve across the country. He says more testing and contact tracing are key as teams spend the summer figuring out what campus life will look like for students, faculty and staffers in the fall.

"We wouldn't want to jeopardize the health of the community or the health of our students and faculty," Garimella said.

Nursing student Maggie Dwyer respects the decision but says it may be risky.

"I do kind of worry just because the second wave is supposed to come in the middle of fall," Dwyer said.

Activities on campus will likely be limited and precautions taken in the dining halls, dorms and classrooms.

"Maybe there's limits on how large a class can be, how many students are in a class," Garimella said.

School officials are also working on a plan that may allow some students or faculty to continue some aspects of online learning if they don't feel safe returning to campus.

"If he feels confident, then that means that federal guidelines will say that's safe to do and medical professionals, so I trust their opinions," said Jillian Natanagara, a UVM graduate.

Garimella says not only is education important for students but the university serves as an economic driver for the state.

"It'll take all of us to partner to make this work, but I think this is the best outcome for everyone," he said.

School officials will continue to listen to the advice from the state and their own public health experts.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says he supports UVM's decision, as well.

There have been reports across the country of colleges fearful they could lose a lot of students, especially if they only offer online classes because there are cheaper alternatives. We asked how finances impacted this decision. Garimella kept on track, saying students getting back to their education was really the key reason. But we do know that nontenure-track lecturers have been informed they could have their pay cut based on how many students they have next semester.

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