ORONO — The University of Maine System is preparing to welcome students back to campuses for a traditional, in-person college experience at the start of the fall semester. New guidance posted today by the University of Maine System alerts faculty and staff to plan for classroom instruction, residence hall occupancy, and campus-based activities for community members that resemble pre pandemic operations.
“Maine is moving forward responsibly,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy. “We are going to start planning now so we can provide our students and community members with a traditional, on-campus college experience and as much normalcy as possible.”
Chancellor Malloy is launching a Campus Collaborations Spring ‘21 tour of all UMS universities with a visit to the University of Maine at Augusta on March 11. The focus of this semester’s tour to all the UMS universities are opportunities for faculty collaboration within the Unified Accreditation framework and the UMS TRANSFORMS initiative to implement the $240 million Harold Alfond Foundation commitment. The Chancellor will also be meeting with students and encouraging participation in the COVID-19 vaccination campaign as a key step in the return to normalcy.
The University of Maine System has made voluntary employee participation in the vaccination effort a top priority, and is providing education and accommodations, including paid administrative leave for employees getting their first vaccination during work hours. UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy chairs the University of Maine System Vaccination Planning and Partnership task force and received her first dose of the vaccine recently from UMaine senior and nursing student Stephanie Nichols.
“COVID-19 vaccinations are important for our overall health and community well-being,” said President Ferrini-Mundy. “Knowing that all of our adult-aged students, faculty and staff will be eligible for a vaccine by July has us planning confidently for a rich, active and in-person campus experience this fall.”
University plans and preparations for the fall will align with civil authority guidance and be informed by the UMS Science Advisory Board. Plans for the fall may include monitoring for infection and other common-sense steps to promote public health.
Six Feet of Separation, Testing Continue Through Spring Semester and Commencement
Civil authority recommendations in the Moving Maine Forward Plan continue to maintain 6-foot physical distancing and face coverings as key safety practices while adding facility capacity as a potential determination of indoor and outdoor gathering-size limitations. Updated University of Maine System guidance posted on the Together for Maine website makes it clear that 6-foot physical distancing will be adhered to for the remainder of the spring semester and commencement.
“Throughout the spring semester, we will stay in alignment with civil authority recommendations that have helped limit the spread of infection on our campuses and in our communities,” continued Chancellor Malloy. “That means adhering to 6 feet of separation and face coverings everywhere on our campuses, and as we plan for all university events.”
The University of Maine System will also continue with its asymptomatic testing strategies and monitoring for COVID-19 with wastewater sampling throughout the spring semester. The university is currently conducting record-setting volumes of asymptomatic testing and producing most results in less than 24 hours with its mobile COVID-19 laboratory at the UMaine campus in Orono. The most recent 14-day positivity rate as determined by the UMS Science Advisory Board was 0.17%, representing 27 positive results among approximately 16,257 tests.
Students React To Plans for Fall Normalcy
“We have all worked hard and had to make sacrifices to be safer during the pandemic. I am really excited that I will be getting the senior year I hoped for.”
— Ally Pickarts, a junior at the University of Maine at Farmington from Colorado with a double major in creative writing and English
“Next fall will be my last semester at UMFK to enjoy all that the campus and the community have to offer. I have continued to make progress on my plan to go to law school throughout the pandemic, but it will be great to finish college under normal circumstances.”
— Rajay Maragh, a first-semester senior at the University of Maine at Fort Kent and president of the Student Activities Board from Jamaica, who hopes to attend Maine Law next year
“The University of Maine at Augusta made my college dreams come true for me, but COVID has been hard on all of us. I cannot wait to come back in the fall for my senior year for the traditional college learning and working experience that brought me to UMA in the first place.”
— Paige Thibodeau, a junior at the University of Maine at Augusta and a Mitchell Scholar from Medford, Maine who is in the Veterinary Technology Program at the Bangor campus
“I came back to Farmington this year because the university is so committed to the safety and success of its students. If there is anywhere in the country where students can count on a traditional campus experience next fall, it is going to be at our universities in Maine.”
— Jocelyn Royalty, a sophomore at the University of Maine at Farmington from Connecticut who is a double major in creative writing and psychology