Mayor, colleges give update on reopening college campuses

Mission Hill and its residents are neighbors to some of the more well known colleges and universities in Boston. 

With higher education institutions like Wentworth Institute of Technology, North Eastern University as well as Emmanuel College and Simmons University nearby, many Mission Hill residents are eager to learn how the neighborhood will be kept safe from COVID-19 once the influx of college students flock to the city. 

Last week at his daily press briefing Mayor Martin Walsh addressed how colleges will help the city keep college campuses and the communities that surround them safe in the fall. 

The Mayor said his administration has been communicating with the leadership of local colleges and universities on a regular basis. 

“We have been working closely with these institutions regarding the new COVID-19 protocols and precautions for higher education, and to create plans if someone were to test positive in a campus community,” said Walsh. “The City is also helping colleges and universities plan safe housing options for students to decrease campus density.”

Earlier this month, the city issued guidance for permitting off-campus spaces, like hotels, for temporary student housing. 

“The BPDA, along with Inspectional Services and Licensing, is in the process of reviewing four applications,” said Walsh. “These applications are posted on the BPDA website for anyone to see, and approvals will also be posted as they are issued. Once plans are approved by the BPDA, ISD will perform inspections of these spaces to make sure they meet safety standards.”

The Mayor said each college and university submitting a plan must engage nearby residents with notification of their plans, and talk about how a neighborhood can reach out to them if issues arise.

“The City is also working with the State on contact tracing efforts in partnership with local colleges and universities,” said Walsh. “Along with testing, this will be one of the most powerful tools in ensuring that transmission rates remain low in the Boston area.”

This week, the Mayor will meet with college presidents to further discuss their reopening plans. He will be asking them how they plan to adhere to the Governor’s quarantine order for students living on-campus as well as off-campus. 

Over at Wentworth President Mark A. Thompson announced the framework for a comprehensive plan to return students to campus for the Fall 2020 semester. The university is planning to offer a combination of in-person, virtual and hybrid instruction, depending on course content and the need for applied learning. Additionally, students will be able to live on campus with numerous public health practices in place.

“While we are confident that we can minimize risk while providing an outstanding education and a high-quality student experience, we will be asking everyone in the community to take individual responsibility for protecting themselves and others,” said Thompson. “We are focusing heavily on the concept of social solidarity where we are all united in taking individual and collective actions to care for ourselves, each other and our broader community,” 

Thompson said move-in dates will be expanded and staggered to avoid crowding and allow for physical distancing. In-person co-curricular activities will be modified. 

“Overall, dozens of staff and faculty members are working on several teams at Wentworth, guided by medical, public health, and emergency management expertise, to implement best practices for returning to campus,” said Thompson. 

To promote the safety of Northeastern University and its surrounding communities, Northeastern will require all of its students in Boston to undergo COVID-19 testing on arrival and to quarantine until their first negative test result.  

David Madigan, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs for Northeaster, said all Northeastern students, whether they live in university housing or off campus, will be tested on the first day of arrival and then again on the third and fifth days after the initial test. Immediately after the first test and until they receive a negative result, students will go into quarantine. During quarantine, students who live on campus will be able to go outside their rooms—while wearing a mask—only for picking up food, attending testing or medical appointments, or sharing hall bathrooms and showers.   

As an added safety measure, only students will be allowed in the residence halls on move in day. Anyone else helping them move in will need to stay within the area where they unload their vehicles. At that point, university employees will help the students move into their rooms.  

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