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University Of Maine System Plans To Bring Students Back In The Fall, With Added Precautions

Robbie Feinberg
Maine Public File

The University of Maine System said it is planning to bring students and staff back to its seven campuses for the fall semester, but officials have said that college life will likely be very different.

“We are blessed to be in a state that has had a very low infection rate,” said System Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “Actually, now, a region experiencing an extremely low infection rate. Knock on wood, we hope that continues. But we believe that is one of the reasons that we can open successfully. At least, that is our belief.”

Malloy outlined the steps the state's seven public university campuses are planning to take to reopen August 31. Those steps include increased testing, particularly for out-of-state students and those staying in campus dorms, as well as limiting class sizes and reconfiguring buildings and requiring mask-wearing on campus. Malloy also emphasized that masks would be required on campus, calling them a "no-brainer" tool to reduce transmission.

“It's a very smart tool to press into service in an environment where we're putting people into rooms for an extended period of time,” he said. “It's an inconvenience. It doesn't make people happy. My glasses fog up. But that seems to be a reasonable sacrifice to be making on behalf of my own health and people I care about.”

Malloy estimates that the changes will cost at least tens of millions of dollars.

Malloy said out-of-state students who haven't recently tested negative for COVID-19 will be tested when they get to campus, and students staying in campus dorms will be tested, too. Malloy said the system also expects to continue to test some students throughout the semester, and is exploring other ways to detect the virus, such as testing sewage.

Like many other colleges, the university system is also planning to end in-person classes by Thanksgiving and limit travel during the semester.

Other colleges, including Lewiston's Bates College and Waterville's Colby College, have also recently announced their plans to resume in-person learning in the fall. Unity College, meanwhile, is planning to stay with remote learning through the fall semester.