Bowdoin College will welcome sophomores, juniors, seniors and some freshman back on campus in Brunswick for the spring semester, shifting from the situation this fall when only first-year students and some upperclassmen were allowed on campus over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The spring semester will start Feb. 8, two weeks later than normal, and most classes will continue to be offered primarily online, the college announced Monday. First-year students for whom home is “not a place where they can learn,” including international students, can also return to campus, Bowdoin said. Otherwise, freshman will study remotely.

The college gave no explicit reason for the decision, although in a message to the college community, Bowdoin President Clayton Rose said only three Bowdoin students tested positive for COVID-19 as the college reopened in late summer. One got the result while traveling to the campus in August and the other two “were almost certainly infected while in transit to the college,” he said.

Rose also said that Maine has done a better job than most states in controlling the spread of the virus, although he noted the current outbreak in York County. He also said there were nine new cases in Brunswick in the last two weeks.

Rose said there were no additional student infections beyond the three who tested positive and one staff member also tested positive, but that was followed by two negative tests. He said that the school had performed about 17,000 tests as of the end of last week.

Juniors and sophomores who are not studying remotely will be required to live in on-campus housing, the college said, and all will have single bedrooms. The college also said it will set aside “significant space” for quarantining and isolating students and will continue to test students for COVID-19.

Most Maine colleges, including the University of Maine, the University of New England, Bates College and Colby College, had students return to campus this fall.

Though classes will “continue to be offered primarily online,” faculty members will have the option to offer classes in-person, and the college said “we expect that there will be a number of in-person upper-level classes, including laboratory classes.”

Seniors can live off campus, Rose said, but will be required to wear face coverings and avoid large gatherings, including parties. Those who don’t follow the rules, he said, could lose their campus privileges, which means a senior may not be able to graduate if there are in-person classes required for graduation.


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