BRUNSWICK — Beginning Friday, more than 1,000 Bowdoin College students from across the U.S. and abroad will return to Brunswick for the spring semester. Classes, a mix of in-person and remote learning, are scheduled to start on Monday, Feb. 8. This semester, 60 to 65 percent of the student body, including sophomores, juniors, seniors and some first-year students will return to campus.

The plan is a change from the fall semester, where primarily first-year students were on campus and most sophomores, juniors and seniors studied remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At the college we’re going to be guided by the same principles that guided us in the fall,” said Senior Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Scott Hood in a Zoom meeting on Friday.

For students returning to campus, the process began on Jan. 29, when they were instructed to use an at-home COVID-19 test sent to them by the college. The students must receive negative results before being cleared to travel to campus.

Upon arrival to campus on Friday and Saturday, students will again be tested, this time twice, according to Associate Dean of Student Affairs & Director of Residential and Student Life Mike Ranen.

Every student on campus will have an individual bedroom, and seniors who choose to live off-campus must commit to the “Campus Community Agreement” to receive in-residence privileges.

“When students are traveling from all over the country and the world, we don’t want to think that just because they have a negative test on arrival day means they didn’t pick up the virus,” Ranen said. “So, during these first few days, we are going to keep the campus really tight, we are going to ask students to mostly stay in their rooms.”

“I think Bowdoin has put so much time and thought into this spring semester, and I believe that they have done the best they can to protect the Brunswick and Bowdoin communities while still creating a hopefully successful and enjoyable semester for students,” Emma Kyzivat of Simsbury, Connecticut, who will be living off-campus this semester, wrote in an email. “I think that it is very difficult to know how the semester will go considering there are three class years as opposed to only one in the fall, and the fact that all the students on campus this semester are upperclassmen who know what Bowdoin is like during normal times.”

Although Kyzivat studied remotely in Brunswick last semester, she said that she is excited to feel physically connected to the campus for her last semester and “hopefully have a few in-person components to classes” which is something she has missed over the past year, she said.

COVID-19 testing will continue for each student three times a week for the first month, in hopes of “establishing a bubble.”

Throughout the semester, Bowdoin plans to operate under three COVID-19 severity status levels — yellow, orange and red. For the first 10 days, the campus will be under “Hibernation” arrival status, where students will not be allowed to leave campus, among other restrictions.

The college will reassess the status on Feb. 14.

Under yellow status, students will be able to leave campus for “essential business” only.

“Could you go down to the town common or along the river to take a walk or a hike?” Ranen said. “Sure. Should you drive an hour to go skiing? No. We are asking our students to be reasonable.”

“Maine CDC respects the work that Bowdoin College has done to create a framework for students to return in a way that limits potential transmission of COVID-19 on campus and in the community,” said Maine CDC Communications Director Robert Long in an email.

“As students and staff return to campus, wearing masks, physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and avoiding non-essential gatherings are important steps that everyone can take to protect themselves and others,” Long said.

The Executive Director of the Brunswick Downtown Association, Debora King, said that “the importance of Bowdoin College can never be underestimated in terms of the impact it has on our local economy.”

“Even though they do have a sort of closed campus policy at Bowdoin during this time, the students do come downtown and they’re very very good about the masking and social distancing,” she said.

King said that while the economic impact of the student body is not as large as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still significant.

“With the students coming back in February, we’re looking forward to them being part of not just the Bowdoin campus but part of the entire downtown,” said King. “We really do appreciate the support that they give to our local business.”


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