College students moving back to campuses in Rhode Island

NEWPORT, R.I. (WLNE) – College students across Rhode Island will be returning to campus for the spring semester amid a global pandemic where positivity rates and hospitalizations continue to climb.

At Salve Regina University in Newport, Monday marked the last move-in day as Tuesday is the first day of classes for the spring semester.

The university faired well in the fall, avoiding a large outbreak of coronavirus among students, unlike some colleges in the state that weren’t so lucky,

At Salve, students were ordered to quarantine at home for 10 days before coming back to campus. International students had to quarantine for 14 days.

Students also had to get tested prior to arriving at campus, and once more as they moved in.

“They are to present a negative test from 72 hours prior to coming to Salve. They’ll present that negative test at our testing center, they will then have their IDs activated, then they will have another test from us,” said J. Malcolm Smith, Vice President for Student Affairs.

Almost all of Salve’s student population is moving back on campus this semester, with just 5% of students learning fully remote.

“We all got our tests and basically it’s gonna allow us to come back to campus and go to our in-person classes and go to the dining hall and stuff,” said Kate Murphy, a sophomore from New Hampshire.

Murphy said she feels safe on campus after seeing how smoothly the fall semester went.

“Classes were run really well and everything was super distant, so, it’s safe. I feel like it’s one of the safer colleges in the area.”

Smith said he wants to keep it that way, not only to keep students safe, but to keep the community of Newport safe and sustain the community’s low positivity rate.

“We certainly don’t want to invite students back to change that scenario for our neighbors and our community,” Smith explained, “thus why we ask our students to quarantine and bring a negative test.”

In addition to testing negative twice, students must also screen themselves daily through an app and will continue to get tested every few weeks. Students in the nursing program will be tested weekly.

As of Monday morning, the university had tested more than 1,100 students and found six positive cases.

Smith said Salve has also spaced out living quarters, with some students living at the Newport Marriott for the semester.

“We’ve de-densified our residence halls by almost 20% just to bring rooms down to a size where we believe that social distancing is far easier.”

Along with Salve, Rhode Island College also starts classes this week.

John Taraborelli, assistant director of College Communications and Marketing for RIC, said in an email that the vast majority of classes will be conducted online, with a small handful of hybrid classes that include some in-person instruction.

RIC will have around 275 students living on campus, reduced from around 900 in previous semesters.

“Our primary testing focus will be on our residential students and the students who do come to campus for class. We will hold several asymptomatic testing clinics each week, with the goal that each student is tested weekly. Athletes are tested more often in accordance with NCAA protocols. We also plan to test the limited faculty and staff who are on campus,” Taraborelli said.

The University of Rhode Island and Providence College will resume classes next Monday.

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Categories: Coronavirus, Newport, News, Regional News, Rhode Island