New Hampshire

NH Colleges Plan for a Full Year Back on Campus

Some of New Hampshire's colleges are telling students to prepare for a full reopening in the fall, with in-person classes and even sporting events

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A handful of colleges in New Hampshire have announced plans to reopen fully in the fall with in-person classes and even sporting events.

That comes amid COVID-19 outbreaks at some other schools in the state.

At Plymouth State University, there are about 3,400 students attending in-person classes, but that's about all they can do on campus.

By next fall, school leaders say they just might be able to enjoy a football game.

"I believe we've done a very good job this year keeping circles small and eliminating big gatherings," said senior Matt Ducey.

It seems college students are willing to do whatever it takes to stay on campus.

"It's important to all of us," said senior Nate Betsch.

And because students have largely followed COVID-19 protocols over the last year, school leaders at Plymouth State University say fall 2021 will look a lot more normal.

"I'm standing in front of the ice arena, and we want to be able to have hockey fans here, football fans, and our performing arts, our theater and dance students, are ready to perform for the public again," said Marlin Collingwood, the school's vice president of student life.

Similar announcements also came this week from Dartmouth College and Keene State College.

"It's really wonderful to say we're planning for it," said Melinda Treadwell, president of Keene State.

She says with 3,000 students on campus right now and a .3% positivity rate, the school is planning a more vibrant campus experience next semester.

"By the fall, we are going to have performances and on-campus athletic events," Treadwell said. "I'm confident, given everything we are seeing in the models, that we will be able to do that."

The University of New Hampshire also announced Thursday that its campus would fully reopen in the fall.

"We do not anticipate that COVID-19 will be eliminated by the fall," President James Dean and Provost Wayne Jones said in a statement. "While widespread vaccination is expected by early summer, some precautions will likely remain in effect including testing and any decreased density or face coverings as recommended by CDC and state public health officials."

UNH is also urging everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated to do so.

The ambitious plans come at the same time Colby Sawyer College announced an outbreak that infected 68 students, and Saint Anselm College reported the highest one-day case count on campus since the beginning of the pandemic.

"We expected a bump, we're having it, and we are going to manage it," said Saint Anselm spokesperson Paul Pronovost.

He says the cluster is contained and students are still attending in-person classes.

"What we have learned is that our system is working — we identify cases, put our arms around clusters, and we are containing them," Pronovost said.

At Plymouth State, students, especially freshmen, are looking forward to fall, hoping for a kind of campus life they've yet to enjoy.

"I'm excited to see what sports games would be like, because we haven't had much of an experience with that," said freshman Grace Mather.

For these fall plans to work, school leaders across the state are reminding students to keep wearing their masks, avoid parties and keep their circles small.

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