BREAKING: Middlebury announces on-campus instruction for the fall

Students will return to a transformed campus, strict health protocols, and a mix of in-person, remote and hybrid classes

By Riley Board, Hattie LeFavour, and Bochu Ding

Middlebury has announced plans for students to return to campus in the fall, with various health protocols and a portion of classes online. (Benjy Renton)

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly. 

  • Middlebury expects to invite most students back for an on campus fall semester; September 8 will be the first day of class and the first batch of returning students will arrive on August 18
  • Students will be required to quarantine before their return and the college will test all students upon arrival
  • Professors can decide to offer their courses in an in-person, remote or hybrid capacity, and the college expects approximately one-third of classes to be conducted online
  • Student access cards will only open the residence that they live in, and the academic buildings they need to access 
  • Staff who can work from home will likely continue to do so, while those who work closely with students must receive approval to return to campus
  • Parties and gatherings must not exceed a 25-person limit and must take place where physical distancing is possible

Middlebury will reopen its campus to students, faculty and staff in the fall with certain precautions, according to a copy of the college announcement shared with The Campus. The College plans to welcome students back, with classes beginning on September 8 for a 12-week semester, which will continue without interruption until Thanksgiving Break, before a transition to remote learning. The cost of attendance remains unchanged.

With the removal of October Break, November 20 will be the last day of in-person classes. Students will not be allowed to return to campus, with classes and exams following Thanksgiving break held in a remote capacity. The statuses of J-term and the spring semester remain unclear.

Students will be required to quarantine before and after they return to campus, and will be tested for Covid-19 upon their arrival in Middlebury. Students will return at staggered start times, and will have to begin quarantining 14 days prior to their planned arrival date; they will be expected to maintain safe practices during their travel to campus. 

There will be three start times: [email protected] peer leaders, ISSS PALS and other student leaders will arrive August 18; new students, transfers, international students and fall athletes (if athletics are approved) will arrive August 26; the remaining students will be permitted to return on August 28.

While many classes will be offered in-person, others will be offered remotely or in a hybrid capacity, even as students live on campus. The college expects roughly a third of classes —  approximately 175 of 530 courses — to be taught remotely. Professors will have the opportunity to choose whether they teach online, in-person or using a combination of the two. Students will be informed of which courses are offered in which format before course registration. 

Students will be tested for Covid-19 upon their arrival on campus, and again after seven days. They will have to remain in isolation in their rooms for roughly 24 hours until results are available — and will only be allowed to leave to use the bathroom, to collect meals from a delivery point and in the case of medical emergencies. 

If students test negative, they will then be ‘quarantined’ to campus, and can move about while following safety protocols. Off-campus students will quarantine in their off-campus housing. 

Students who test positive will be isolated in Munford House and be monitored by health professionals. 

Students and staff will have to adhere to a variety of health protocols throughout the semester as well, including undergoing Covid-19 symptom pre-screening each day and wearing face coverings whenever possible. The college is planning to provide cloth face coverings for all students. 

The announcement mentions that students will live in singles and doubles, but that the school, “will share more information with students about room draw and housing accommodations in a separate communication.” Student access cards will only open the residence that students live in, and the academic buildings they need access. Students who live in off-campus residences must adhere to the same guidelines as those who live on campus.

Middlebury plans to increase its capacity for mental health services including counseling as well as nutritional, medical and psychiatric services by contracting with a telehealth company which will aid students both on and off campus.

Dining will progress in three phases, the first of which requires that each student be assigned to one dining hall and provided with to-go meals only. While indoor seating will be prohibited, there will be limited outdoor tent space in some areas. Each dining hall will have the same menu and abide by a one-way traffic format, and all meals will be prepared by dining staff.

The announcement includes initial restrictions and monitoring of off-campus travel, for which guidelines are being developed and will vary depending on the travel destination. On-campus speakers and visitors will also be severely limited — if they are permitted at all — and required to abide by both college and state health guidelines. Students will not be allowed to have any personal guests, except for a single person who will be allowed to assist them at move-in.

Students packed up their belongings after the cancellation of in-person classes this past March. The college is now planning to welcome students back, with classes beginning on September 8. (Benjy Renton)

The announcement notes that the college, “will not be able to organize large-scale events in person,” although more specific announcements about dining, fitness and other activities and events will be released later in the summer. The school will also continue to make announcements about the status of sports and extracurricular activities through the summer. 

As for parties, “At present … group gatherings of up to 25 people are permitted, though this could change at any time. Any such gatherings must be scheduled in spaces large enough to allow adequate physical distancing.”

Off-campus travel to the town of Middlebury, trails, lakes and other destinations will be prohibited until all students have completed the first two rounds of testing, after which restrictions may be relaxed depending on student behavior. 

While staff who are able to work from home will continue to do so, those whose work is better completed on campus will undergo an approval process to work in modified, socially distant office spaces. 

Bowdoin, one of Middlebury’s peers, announced earlier today that the college will open its doors in the fall, but only to certain students — first-years, transfer students, residential life staff and senior honors students who require Bowdoin’s facilities to complete their projects. Almost all classes will be taught in a remote capacity. Students who take a voluntary leave of absence will need to seek readmission to continue their studies at Bowdoin. 

Although Middlebury does not expect to have to evacuate students mid-semester, Vermont health guidelines maintain that all students should be prepared to evacuate or go into lockdown at any time.

Students, both returning and newly admitted, will now have until July 6, two weeks from today, to make a decision about whether they want to take a leave of absence. While Middlebury maintains that those who choose to do so will be welcomed back, their return date may be restricted by housing limitations. Students will receive a full refund as long as they withdraw before the semester begins.