AMHERST (CBS) – Most UMass Amherst students will be taking their classes remotely in the fall, but they will be able to live on campus “under exacting public health restrictions,” the university has announced.

Students, including freshmen, will have the choice to take courses from home or from residence halls, and students will not be forced to return to campus. The school said the decision was based on feedback from students, who said that if the campus was closed, they would rent apartments in the area.

“Students who choose to attend UMass Amherst do so not only for the quality of the faculty and the academic programs but also for the immersive experience, which offers opportunities for enrichment that can be undertaken with a diverse group of peers. As best we can – and there are severe limitations in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – we will strive to sustain the community connections that represent UMass at its best,” said Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

Students who are on campus – for classes or living in residence halls – will be required to sign an agreement to abide by UMass protocols that will include social distancing, face masks, limiting social contacts, daily self-monitoring and reporting, limiting travel off-campus and assisting with contact tracing. Students will also be required to submit to virus testing on-demand, and guests will be prohibited in residence halls.

“It is important to understand that life on campus will not be anything resembling normal college life,” said Subbaswamy.

The college said most classes would be offered remotely with only hands-on classes, such as labs and performance and studio classes, being offered on campus. Also, the college will have a shortened semester, ending at Thanksgiving break. The school said it could also close residence halls if COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts start to rise.

“Having to go to online classes was not as fun…I can’t wait to go back,” said rising sophomore Shane Patrick. “I wish we could go back to normal schooling but I’ll take what we can get I guess.”

His main concern about coronavirus is passing it on to his parents. “So if I’m going to be at school then I’m not too worried about going out, I trust my friends.”

Restaurants in the area were also happy to hear that at least some students will return, and cautiously optimistic it will bring some business back.

Bistro 63 restaurant manager Sasha London said, “A lot of those kids, they are our family even though they’re only here nine months out of the year.”

“It’s unfortunate that we won’t be able to open up the night club back up or have a regular bar service return for a while,” she added.

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