Pomona announces plans for possible in-person spring semester

Girl sitting at desk in a dorm room
Pomona College released information for what an in-person spring semester could look like in an email to students Monday, detailing strict social distancing guidelines and plans for creating a “bubble” on campus. (Maddie Rubin-Charlesworth • The Student Life)

Pomona College administrators released information detailing what an in-person spring semester could look like in an email to students Monday, with measures including strict social distancing guidelines and plans for creating a “bubble” on campus. 

“We will continue to work closely with public health officials, and we also believe Pomona and other institutions have reached a point of preparation and knowledge where a phased and responsible reopening of higher education campuses should begin,” the email said.

President G. Gabrielle Starr will be meeting with public health officials to discuss the potential to create a “bubble” at institutions like Pomona to “support public health and protect the wider community,” the email said. 

The college is “confident” in its ability to implement the plan, but requires approval from Los Angeles county to reopen. Currently, the county’s current Tier 1 status — “widespread” — prohibits in-person classes and residential life in higher education institutions.  

Starr and Biola University president Barry Corey wrote a letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Oct. 21 to ask for institutions of higher education to be allowed to bring students back on campus once a “clear, scientifically-based plan” for limiting COVID-19 has been submitted.

“Colleges across the U.S. have proven what works: strong preparation and implementation of safety measures alongside committed community compliance,” the letter said. 

“When working closely with their local public health partners, institutions nationwide are successfully limiting and monitoring the spread of COVID-19, preserving the health of students and employees on and off their campuses without compromising their commitment to educational excellence.”

Here’s what an on-campus semester could look like

The majority of classes would still be online, with the possibility of in-person physical education classes, the email said. Students would be required to sign an agreement on campus policies regarding public health.

“Students who jeopardize their health and potentially, the health of others, will be sanctioned,” the email said. The process will include warnings and could “escalate to being required to leave campus within 24 hours depending on the nature of the incident.”

The move-in process would include appointment times and COVID-19 testing on arrival followed by a quarantine period on campus. After the initial quarantine, students will be subjected to “surveillance testing,” when random samples of students are tested regardless of symptoms.

Students would not be allowed to have cars on campus, as “travel to and from campus will be limited,” the email said. Masks would also be required at all times, except when students are alone in their room or are eating. 

All students would live in single rooms and only have access to their assigned residence hall. No guests would be allowed, including family members during move-in time. The “bathroom maximum ratio” would be four students per bathroom.

Students would only be allowed to bring three bags to campus, and in case of a campus evacuation, students would be required to take all their belongings with them, according to the email.

Dining halls would provide grab-and-go meals with outdoor seating. Most student gathering spaces would be outside, with additional chairs and tables set up on campus for student use, the email said. 

The email included a survey for students and community members to provide feedback on which students to prioritize bringing back to campus, what kind of support students would need and what an “appropriate community contract” would look like.

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