BRISTOL, R.I. (CBS) — Colleges and universities around New England are trying to figure out exactly what their schools will look like in the fall. In Bristol, Rhode Island, Roger Williams University is telling students they will be welcomed back on campus. Their plan includes testing and a lot of academic flexibility.
After spending most of the spring taking classes online, Anthony Soares of Wilbraham said he’s had enough and can’t wait to get back on campus for his senior year.
“I think we learn better with each other rather than online,” he said.
But the upcoming academic year will not be business as usual.
“We have created a very flexible schedule and a very flexible menu of options that students have,” explained the school’s president, Ioannis Miaoulis.
According to Miaoulis, students will be able to design their own semester, mixing classes on campus and online with research, volunteer and internship opportunities for credit. Students who don’t feel comfortable on campus can do all of this remotely with the guidance of a Roger Williams advisor.
The school is also considering changing its academic calendar from a four-month semester to a series of mini-terms that run five weeks each.
“We want to make sure that the schedule is flexible enough so that if there is an outbreak and we need to move online or stop for a period of time, that would damage the least the academic schedule of the students,” Miaoulis said.
To manage social distancing, students may take turns going to class in-person and logging from their dorms. Mealtimes will also have to be revamped.
“Normally we have 1,000 students dining at the same time in one room. We are probably going to have scheduling, different groups of students at different times.” Miaoulis said the school is also looking to reconfigure some space into new dining areas in order to keep students at a safe distance.
Miaoulis said the school wants to make sure all students are tested COVID-19 before they arrive on campus. He’s also working with Rhode Island officials to come up with a plan for testing and tracing once students arrive. “We want to be proactive. We are not going to wait until someone has a fever to test,” he said.
Soares understands campus will have a different feel in the fall, but he’ll take it.
“Anyone could agree that going on campus with some rules is better than having another semester online,” he said.
More detailed information on the reopening plan is expected in the next couple of weeks.