Administration and Students Hope for In-Person Spring Semester as Remote Fall Progresses

Sai Atluri '24, Guest Writer

Amid the ongoing pandemic, Dickinson students and staff alike are wishfully planning to be back on campus for the Spring 2021 semester.

Dickinson was one of the first colleges to go online for the fall semester to ensure the safety of its students and staff. Since this decision, college administration has been brainstorming plans for the spring semester. 

When asked about what specific precautions Dickinson was taking to bring students back, President Margee Ensign said that, “a number of things need to be in place to open safely: reliable and rapid testing, contact tracing and a commitment by all on campus to abide by health guidelines, including wearing a mask and social distancing,”

“We have made great progress since the summer in identifying testing companies and a state-based regional contact tracer is in place, “ said Ensign. “A contact tracing app has also been developed by the state that we will also use. We are working on areas related to space needs for residence halls and dining as well as testing protocols,” she said.

The number of positive cases in Carlisle has remained steadily low the past few months, leading the college to be optimistic about reopening in the spring. While many students may be hopeful about the virus situation being under control, others are fearful regarding the potential implications of the cold winter weather and the arrival of the flu season.   

As the colder winter months bring on the possibility of the annual flu season converging with the coronavirus risk, President Ensign was confident in Dickinson’s measures to prevent and control an Influenza outbreak. “In an effort to prevent a double pandemic on campus, the college is requiring flu vaccinations for students and employees living and/or working on campus,” saidEnsign, “a number of on-campus flu clinics have been scheduled through the end of October. Exceptions are made for those who cannot receive the vaccine for medical or religious reasons, and for those who wish to receive it elsewhere.” 

While administration has worked to ensure that students, faculty, and staff can safely return to campus, students have also contributed to the  plans to reopen campus. The students in Professor Lev Fruchter’s “Introduction to Computer Science” class were tasked with creating an algorithm with a plan to ensure the safe return of students to Dickinson’s campus. Students spent time discussing key factors and indicators to reopening campus in a safe manner. 

“Contact tracing is the most important factor in reopening schools safely,” says Riley Martin’ 24, a student in Fruchter’s class. “If we don’t know where the student has been, we won’t know who else was infected or who infected the student,” he said. 

Administration is still deciding how frequently testing needs to be administered. While Dickinsonians continue to remain optimistic about classes being in person, there will not be a final decision regarding in person classes until the beginning of November.