SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame has announced plans to welcome students back to its campus this fall.
The university is one of the first major colleges to move forward with a plan to reopen its campus as many schools fear further spreading the novel coronavirus.
Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, said in a letter to students and staff Monday that the Indiana college will reopen two weeks earlier than originally scheduled. Jenkins says the university will skip its fall break to minimize the chances of students bringing the virus onto campus. Instead, the fall semester will end earlier, before Thanksgiving.
The university says its officials have consulted with experts for months to develop a “robust plan to ensure to the greatest extent possible the health and safety” of its community. The plan will include comprehensive testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, social distancing and mask requirements, and enhanced cleaning of all campus spaces.
As part of its planning, the university says it has identified facilities to isolate students who test positive and quarantine those who have been in close contact.
The school is also developing signage and other communications tools to remind the campus community of health expectations and best practices.
Jenkins says the university will alter plans if a serious outbreak occurs or the school becomes unable to acquire what is needed for testing.
If the university is forced to begin on-campus activities later in the fall or end it earlier than scheduled, faculty has been asked to prepare courses with two district periods of equal length to allow for a smoother transition.
“Faculty also have been asked to prepare to offer courses both in person and through remote instruction, the latter of which will allow any student in isolation or quarantine to continue to participate,” the university said.
Jenkins compared reopening the campus to assembling a small city of people from around the world, “who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed.”
The university president is encouraging every member of the campus community to be flexible and adopt behaviors that will make the campus as safe as it can be.
“In the new normal we are facing, we will need to ask everyone to accept some inconveniences and adopt behavioral norms and practices necessary to protect the health of every member of our community.”
The governor of Indiana, Eric Holcomb, has been easing restrictions in the state in phases and has said that he expects most restrictions associated with the virus to be lifted by July 4, barring any major outbreaks.