LOWELL — Classes will resume on site at the University of Massachusetts Lowell this fall — but at reduced capacity and with major changes.
About a quarter of all classes will occur fully in-person, according to the university’s plan
, which was released Wednesday. The rest will be a combination of virtual and hybrid courses. Classes that do take place on campus will operate at about 25% to 50% of normal capacity.
“The goal is for as many students as possible to have an in-person experience… but we’re going to have to do that at reduced capacity,” Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Larry Siegel said.
This could mean scheduling more sessions of a particular class, or splitting a class into sections that alternate between in-person and virtual learning, Siegel said. Those in campus classrooms and work spaces will be expected to keep at least six feet apart, and wear face coverings when distancing isn’t possible.
Libraries will operate with reduced hours and study space, and the stacks will be off limits. Instead of browsing the shelves, students will be able to request books for pick-up. Capacity will be limited at testing centers, and social distancing guidelines will be imposed.
Student advising appointments will occur virtually or from a safe physical distance, and tutoring will take place via Zoom.
There will be options for students who wish to complete the semester remotely, according to Joe Hartman, provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs.
“There’s no doubt we’ve learned a lot this past semester,” Hartman said. ” … I think we’ll have an even better and more robust experience this fall.”
The university will open 3,600 spaces in residence halls, according to a student handbook
. Normally, just under 4,800 beds are available on campus.
Traditional housing will be limited to one student per room, with two students allowed in some larger rooms that typically fit three or four students. Single and double occupancy bedrooms will be available in on-campus suites and apartments. Groups of students who know each other will be prioritized in the apartment and suite selection process, according to the plan.
“We will be scheduling a prolonged check-in process over the course of a week, as opposed to what we normally have in two days,” Siegel said regarding move-in plans. Students who live locally may be asked to drop most of their belongings off a week early, but not stay, he said.
Community bathrooms will be cleaned once a day, and “revisited” throughout the day, the plan states. Cleaning supplies will also be available to residents.
Guest policies will reflect CDC and state guidelines. At first, off-campus students will not be allowed to visit on-campus residence halls, according to Siegel. Students will be encouraged to “engage in enhanced social distancing measures during the first two weeks after moving-in,” the plan states.
More than 4,200 students have applied to live on campus this fall, according to Siegel. The university plans to contact those students over the next week to explain the new campus living model, which includes face covering requirements and limited guest policies.
If students do not wish to recommit to their housing contract, they will be let out with no penalty.
“Then we will have a much more accurate number of how many students wish to live on campus against the 3,600 or so beds that we know we have,” Siegel said.
If there are still more students seeking on-campus housing than there are beds, the provost’s office, registrar’s office and student leaders will develop a prioritization process.
“Most likely the final decisions will be based on proximity,” Siegel said. Some students may come from 50 miles away, while others may reside only five or 10 miles away, he added.
“And then we would expect to be able to get everybody who wishes to live on campus, on campus for the spring semester,” Siegel said.
Dining on campus will resemble restaurant dining — if you don’t make a reservation, you might not find a table, Siegel said.
Tables of two, four and six seats will be safely spaced apart, and students will choose who they sit with. The university will also “take advantage of opportunities for outdoor seating,” according to the plan.
“We’re still working on some of the details…” Siegel said. Students will be able to reserve a table, to prevent lines from forming outside the dining hall. A reservation and capacity tracking process are currently being developed.
“It’s no different, I think, than the real world. If you make a reservation at a restaurant, you’re pretty much assured that a table will be held aside for you at that time. If you just drive up to the same restaurant without a reservation, if there’s a space, they’ll offer it to you,” Siegel said.
Extensive cleaning, to-go options, marked queuing areas, and the elimination of self-serve options are also part of the university’s plan to reopen dining services.
The university will follow the following schedule for the fall semester:
- Week of Aug. 24: Students move to campus
- Aug. 30: Convocation
- Sept. 1: Classes begin
- Sept. 7: Labor Day
- Oct. 12: Columbus Day
- Nov. 11: Veterans Day
- Nov. 30: Classes resume after Thanksgiving break. Students should plan to return to campus.
- Dec. 12: Finals begin
- Dec. 21: Semester ends
Students are encouraged to bring at least two face coverings, a thermometer, hand sanitizer, insurance cards and contact information for their primary care provider.
“These are challenging times for our community and our society as we grapple with the uncertainties of this international pandemic and the physical, personal and economic toll it has taken on our world and our lives,” Chancellor Jacquie Moloney said in a news release.
“However, UMass Lowell’s commitment to providing the highest quality education to our students and conducting innovative research that benefits our community has never been stronger. Thanks to the collective efforts of our incredible faculty and staff, I know that we will deliver on that promise,” Moloney continued.
If necessary, the university will be prepared to shift on-campus courses to remote learning, according to the release. Faculty will be trained this summer on virtual teaching.
“The university can have perfect plans… The plans will only be as good as the students being responsible for themselves, but most importantly others,” Siegel said.
“This is going to be a community effort,” Hartman said.