WESTFIELD- Westfield State University offered more details about plans to welcome students back to campus for the fall semester amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to students and parents, WSU announced that students would be given the opportunity to change their schedules for the semester to accommodate themselves better in the upcoming school year.
In a separate letter, WSU Interim President Dr. Roy H. Saigo said that the fall semester would include a combination of in-person and onlin classese. Students will be allowed to choose between courses that will be entirely in-person, a hybrid of online and in-person classes, or classes that are entirely online.
The Athletics and Fitness Center will remain open for student athletes for practices and training despite the statewide suspension of the fall athletics season. In Dr. Saigo’s letter, he said that the facilities would comply with the NCAA Sports and Science Institute’s COVID-19 college sports guidelines. These guidelines would follow a three-phased approach in reopening college athletic centers based on “a sustained downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases.”
WSU will also seek to test every resident and commuter for COVID-19 when they return to campus for the semester. In a letter sent to students on July 16, former President Ramon S. Torrecilha said that the university hoped to have the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard be contracted to provide testing.
As WSU will continue to have restricted access through the fall semester, visitors to the campus must have business with the university and must have an appointment before arrival. The plan did not mention how much testing WSU can do after the beginning of the year or if it will be required for everybody on campus.
Those who are displaying COVID-19 symptoms will be asked to self-isolate as they await their test results. WSU asks that students isolate at home if possible but they also said there would be designated isolation areas on campus for people who cannot go home.
The university will also have a team of staff that will be ready to assist with contact tracing and data collection if necessary.
In the WSU Safe Fall Opening Plan handbook it says that the school is planning ahead for possible disruptions to the semester if COVID-19 has a second wave that hits the region or if there are additional stay-at-home orders from the state.
Masks will be required of students, staff, and faculty in places where physical distancing will not be possible. In the handbook, however it says that the wearing of a mask is not a substitute for social distancing.
“This virus has no playbook, as you know, so creating our prudent plan to welcome you back to a safe nest this fall required careful, campus-wide collaboration. I realize it wasn’t a simple task and wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to the leadership of the University’s Safe Opening Taskforce (SOTF); our divisional working group members; and members of the University’s Emergency Response Team (ERT), for getting it done in a careful, thoughtful, and timely manner,” said Dr. Saigo in his July 29 letter to students.