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Colleges Adapt to Covid World This Spring

By Jesse Cinquini, Currier Times Staff

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic that has irrevocably altered our way of life, colleges across the state instituted newfound regulations to mitigate and contain the spread of the virus on their campuses. However, many public colleges in Massachusetts offer online classes only, with some notable examples being UMass Amherst and Harvard University. Population size is, by all indications, the determining factor behind these schools opting for the online-only approach, as the two distinguished institutions listed above each boast a student body of over 25,000. Even if a minuscule percentage of the community contracts Covid (1% of 25,000 is 250), there is potential for that number to quickly accrue to hundreds or thousands of cases.

But private colleges, like Curry, for example, don’t have to worry about containing such sizable numbers. As such, numerous privately-funded academies have been rolling with in-person classes since the Fall. There have been hiccups here and there across the state — most recently with Stonehill College, as they closed shop early in the spring semester after a swift breakout. Although, in totality, private colleges have weathered the storm that is Covid-19 quite impressively. These schools have handled Covid so well because their rules and regulations share many commonalities and are conducive to creating safe environments for students and faculty alike.

Bentley University, Brandeis University, and Clark University are three noteworthy private colleges that teach their students both on and off-campus along with Curry. What all these schools have in common, first and foremost, is their weekly scheduled covid-testing. Bentley outlines this all-important guideline on their website. While schools test at different frequencies, they share the same fundamental sentiment: “Regular weekly screening tests will continue to be required for all students, faculty, and staff on campus during the spring 2021 trimester. Residential students are required to test twice weekly, but not on back-to-back days.”

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Simply put, all students at these colleges who opt to attend in-person classes are required to get themselves tested at least once a week. Those who object? Well, they’re subject to permanent removal from campus. That’s because weekly tests allow the school to monitor the number of positive tests and the student body and faculty’s safety. Public Health departments need to know these numbers to gauge the threat of an outbreak and then plan accordingly, whether that be moving all students off-campus or just some.

Another covid precaution shared by these institutions is that all students, faculty, and staff must wear a mask at all times — with the one exception being when students are alone in their room. But the act of wearing a mask in itself isn’t enough to adhere to the rule. See, the mask must be of a specific size, large enough to cover one’s mouth and nose. Wearing a mask over the mouth is not protecting others. It must be both the nose and mouth to ensure maximum safety for the school’s inhabitants.

Clark University, located in Worcester, succinctly details what defines proper mask-wearing on their website which applies to all of the four private schools: “For maximum results, a mask should entirely cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly around the edges of the face.” Clark went a step further and banned all bandanas, scarfs, and other mask substitutes. While Bentley, Harvard, Brandeis, and Curry have yet to enforce such a rule, it is certainly worth considering. Clark has seen just four students forced to quarantine in the last week — the lowest mark of any of the four institutions over this span.

Thanks to having manageable student populations and mandatory weekly covid-testing along with strict mask-wearing rules, private schools have, in large, kept at bay one of the deadliest viruses in modern history. This is an indictment of the colleges’ commitment to the well-being of all who call their campuses home. Curry, Bentley, Clark, and Brandeis all have accomplished what would be impossible for most public colleges. They not only brought their students back to campus, but they provided them a safe space to learn in these unprecedented times.

“Considering we’re amidst a pandemic, Curry and other private colleges with in-person classes deserve a ton of credit for their ability to contain covid, said David Monteiro, a Curry College junior. “I wasn’t sure we (Curry students) were going to return at all this year after what happened in 2020.”

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