Williams College plans to reopen with 'extraordinary' safety measures

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College will resume classes in the fall, with some students returning to campus and others continuing to learn remotely, the college has announced.

In a statement released on Monday, college President Maud S. Mandel said the school will take "extraordinary" public health measures in light of the ongoing threat of the coronavirus..

"I'm eager to welcome our community back. As beautiful as this campus is, Williams without people just isn't Williams. To do this responsibly will require significant adjustments to the ways we live and learn, and sharing the commitments and sacrifices needed to protect each other," she wrote in a letter to the campus community. "When in doubt we're going to err on the side of caution, because what's at stake is the health and wellbeing of our extended community, to which we all have a collective responsibility."

The college will begin on Tuesday hosting a series of town halls with college leaders and administrators to allow members of the Williams community to ask questions and "learn more about the implications of our decision, and envision what fall semester might be like," Mandel said.

While the majority of students left when in-person classes ended in March, some students remain on campus, including international students who were unable to travel due to global restrictions. Classes, a combination of in-person and remote instruction, will begin on Sept. 10. But Williams fall sports teams will not compete during the fall semester. Student clubs and organizations "are likely to be active, but will have to operate in new ways given public health considerations," Monday's memo read.

Another new protocol for the campus community: weekly COVID-19 testing. Tests for students, faculty and staff will be administered for free upon arrival to campus, then throughout the rest of the term. Mandel said the college has entered a partnership with the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University through a self-administered nasal swab "conducted under observation by a trained professional."

Following their initial test, students will be required to quarantine in their rooms, with bathroom access only, for 24 to 48 hours until the results are confirmed. Meals will be delivered to rooms during this time. "We realize the seriousness and inconvenience of this measure, but it's the only way we can ascertain that everyone has tested negative for the virus before they join the campus community," Mandel wrote.

The changes also will result in some fee reductions at the college, including a 15 percent cut in the comprehensive fee (tuition, room, board) and the elimination of the annual student activities fee for all students, during the 2020-21 academic year. Additional waivers will be made for students receiving financial aid. Students who participate in the semester fully remotely will not be charged for room and board.

In nearby North Adams, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts plans to resume in-person classes on Sept. 2. Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, will begin its hybrid semester on Aug. 31. Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield will resume a hybrid fall semester on Sept. 8.

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