The first day of school never looked like this. Neither has any other move-in day. Adjusting that phrase alone tells the story: move-in at UNH has been staggered over three weeks, starting with a drop-off-your-stuff day and culminating during arrival week with a come-back-and-move-into-your-room/apartment day. Both required self-scheduled appointments.
And when classes begin on Monday, Aug. 31, marking the start of the 2020-21 school year, it will be unlike the start of any semester in UNH’s history — or the history of hundreds of other colleges and universities around the country whose traditional fall schedule also has been altered or hijacked by the coronavirus.
The staged returns to campus began Aug. 12 and end this Sunday, Aug. 30 as part of a much larger plan that UNH leadership spent most of the summer crafting to ensure that students could do so safely while helping to keep the university community safe. To that end, only students who will be living in the residence halls and on-campus apartments are allowed in those buildings during arrival week; family members and friends are not allowed.
The hope, according to a statement by President James Dean, is that face-to-face classes will continue until Thanksgiving.
Students were required to have a COVID test eight days prior to arriving and bring with them proof of negative results. This week and through Aug. 30, they will be taught how to do a self-swab test and receive the kits to do so along with instructions for dropping off the completed test kits at one of 10 designated campus locations. The plan is to test students every four days with faculty and staff being tested every six to eight days. ConvenientMD is processing the tests until UNH’s own lab is up and running. Anyone who tests positive will be quarantined for 14 days. For students, that will be in a predesignated dorm.
Taking the long view, UNH announced in May that it planned to welcome students back to campus this fall. Guidelines have been drawn up that require students to wear masks at all times outside of their residence. Limited class sizes with seats marked every 6 feet for social distancing. Hand sanitizing stations in campus buildings – classrooms, dining halls, libraries. And routine weekly testing following the mandatory pre-arrival test indicating negative results.
Dining halls are open with reduced density. Take out is also available. Student events will be limited. In-person classes will have fewer students — at least 50 percent the normal capacity. Teaching labs and art studios will require full personal protection equipment (PPE 4).
The hope, according to a statement by President James Dean, is that face-to-face classes will continue until Thanksgiving. For that to happen, everyone needs to adhere to the guidelines. In just the past week, several colleges and universities that had intended to have students back on campus have reversed course, Columbia University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill among them.
Testing results will be published here on a regular basis. No personal identifiable data will be shared. The first week’s results (Aug. 22) reflect 23 positives, 19 of those in Durham. The majority of students’ test results are not included in this post as they were told not to test earlier than eight days of arriving on campus.
All test results collected in New Hampshire by the UNH testing program are reported to the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.