Students returned to the classrooms at Bard College this week and so far, COVID-19 safeguards are working smoothly, a college spokesman told the Observer.

“To date, we have not had a positive test result,” spokesman Mark Primoff said. “Bard is a part of the local community, and our protocols take into consideration the safety of everyone in the area.”

Bard, founded 160 years ago, has an enrollment of about 1,700, with 220 students opting to study remotely this semester, which includes international students who were unable to travel to campus, Primoff said. Roughly 74% of those attending in-person reside on campus.

Students have been gradually returning to campus since early August.

“All of our students were required to demonstrate a negative test result prior to returning, and we are testing the entire student body post-arrival,” Primoff said.

The college also has a “daily randomized surveillance testing program” which will test about a quarter of the students each week.

“The college has devoted a tremendous amount of time and resources in designing and implementing our comprehensive plan for fall 2020 and we’re very pleased with how well the process has worked thus far,” Primoff said.“

Bard also has a detailed protocol for contract tracing and quarantining.

“We know this is a marathon and not a sprint, and our detailed protocols for ongoing testing, monitoring campus health, contract tracing, and quarantining are designed to be fully implemented and enforced throughout the semester,” the spokesman said.  

All students, faculty and staff are required to wear masks in common areas, even in the dormitory hallways. In the dining halls, masks must be worn except when students are seated at tables.

Students are required to complete daily online health screenings through an app called Safe Reopen.

“All students will have to show that they have completed the screening and received a ‘pass’ before entering campus facilities including classrooms and the dining commons,” the college said.

Students living off-campus should “limit campus visits to classes and outdoor spaces,” the college said.

Whether they live on-campus or off, Bard students must comply with all state and local COVID-19 safety rules when they leave campus, the college said. “Throughout the fall semester, we will be reminding everyone in the Bard community of the importance of taking personal responsibility for the safety of others, both on and off-campus.”

Also, no outside visitors will be allowed in college buildings until New York state officials relax health and physical distancing requirements.

The college plans to hold classes through Nov. 20 without the usual Fall break.

One of the challenges facing colleges and universities is how to handle Thanksgiving break. Depending on where the students live, they may not be able to return to campus without facing quarantines.

Bard issued a warning about this to students on its website.

“For students wishing to travel for Thanksgiving, please be aware that, depending on public health restrictions at that time in Dutchess County and your travel destination, you may not be able to return to campus,” the college said. “ Any student not permitted to return after Thanksgiving owing to COVID-19 restrictions will have a path to remote completion for the semester.”

However, “tuition and room adjustments will not be made should coursework be moved online following the holiday,” the college said.

Students who decide not to return home for Thanksgiving can stay on-campus and the meal plan through Dec. 21, the college said.

There may be some students who are unable to return home even for the winter break because of COVID-19. The college promises to make “special arrangements” for those students to stay over the break.

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