UMass Amherst plans to bring more students back for spring semester

Hampshire County

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BOSTON (AP/WWLP) — The University of Massachusetts Amherst plans to bring more students back to campus for the spring semester in conjunction with a more robust coronavirus testing program, school officials said Friday.

First-year and transfer students will be given the option to live on campus, as will students who depend on the university for housing and dining, including international students, those taking mandatory in-person courses, and varsity athletes, the state’s flagship university said in a statement.

They represent about 60% of the typical on-campus population, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said in the statement. Students who don’t want to live on campus will be able to continue with remote learning, he said.

The streets of downtown Amherst may not be as quiet this coming spring. That’s because more students will be invited back to the UMass Amherst campus next semester.

“I don’t think any of the schools should open in the first place, but I think if people need living spaces then they should have that,” said Kal Treloar of Amherst.

Monday Rain also of Amherst added, “This is a mask required zone and I still see kids just not wearing them blatantly–even if they are not at the seating tables and anything like that.”

Among other measures meant to control the spread of the virus, the school will introduce twice-weekly asymptomatic virus testing in the spring.

UMass has conducted more than 100,000 tests since August for a positivity rate of 0.15%, schools officials said. Just one on-campus resident has tested positive this fall.

The university has about 22,000 undergraduates and an on-campus capacity for about 13,000. There are only about 1,100 students who need essential in-person classes living on campus this fall.

“While I am pleased that a larger percentage of our students will be afforded the opportunity to return to campus and take part in the immersive residential experience, my heart goes out to students to whom we are not able to extend this invitation,” Subbaswamy said. “Put simply, given the nature of the pandemic, the campus cannot operate at full capacity and adequately provide the virus testing, contact tracing, social distancing, and quarantine and isolation measures necessary while the pandemic continues.”

Students returning to campus will include first-year, transfer, and international students, as well as students with mandatory face-to-face classes. But some downtown storefronts are ready to welcome back increased foot traffic.

“I think we just hope fore more consistent customers, and they are letting more freshmen in and freshmen don’t really know the area, we will try to promote more and get new customers to come over,” said Linda Gorniaczyk at HoneyCrisp Chicken.

UMass Amherst will also be expanding its COVID-19 testing and contact tracing programs.

Teaching will still be mostly remote this spring with limited face-to-face instruction.

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