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Bates College Delays Return To School Until February As COVID-19 Surge Continues

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Maine Public file
An administrative building on the Bates campus.

Lewiston’s Bates College is delaying the start of its winter semester by more than a month due to the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

In a letter to the community on Monday, President Clayton Spencer said that the school is now planning to bring students back on Feb. 12, instead of in early January.

Spokesperson Sean Findlen says after consulting with medical experts, the school is hoping that the delay will enable it to get past the worst of the current COVID-19 spike.

“Our students would be traveling at, or near, the height of a what we expect to be the current surge in cases,” he says, “potentially creating significant health risks for these students and significant challenges for the college and student well-being once they arrive back on campus.”

Findlen says that with the current surge, the school anticipated having a number of positive cases if students returned in January, potentially overwhelming the school’s capacity to isolate and quarantine students.

“We decided that moving this date into February would give us the best possible chance to return our students to campus in Lewiston, and then complete the full semester, as we’d like to do, in person,” he says.

The changes will also force the school to delay its commencement ceremony by a week next May.

Many Maine schools were relatively successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus this fall, with Bates, Colby and Bowdoin colleges testing students multiple times per week.

Several other schools nationwide have delayed their spring semesters because of the virus surge, but other colleges in Maine have yet to announce any major changes to their reopening timelines so far.