Colleges, Universities in NH Prepare to Welcome Students Back for Spring Semester

Mike Cronin

As COVID-19 cases surge in New Hampshire, colleges and universities are now getting ready to welcome students back to campus.

Some schools are making changes this semester and expanding testing options.

In three weeks, more than 2,300 students will return to Plymouth State University’s residence halls for their spring semester. Their start date was delayed by a week to Feb. 1.

“I feel really good about our ability to bring students back and keep them safe,” said Marlin Collingwood, vice president of communications, enrollment and student life at Plymouth State University.

In the fall, the school officials said they conducted about 36,000 tests and found 70 cases. When students come back, they will need to produce a negative test within seven days of arrival.

Students will be tested again when classes resume, followed by tests every week.

“We also now have rapid testing available at student health services,” Collingwood said. “And then, we also have our own small lab that is able to conduct and process about 100 tests a day.”

Most classes are planned to be held in person.

“But if a student isn’t able or doesn’t want to attend in person, for most, I’d say 98% of our classes, there is a hybrid option,” Collingwood said.

School leaders will also watch the COVID-19 positivity rates to determine if classes must go remote.

“Our goal is to make it through this semester until the vaccine’s readily available. But we’re going to do our best to try to have a somewhat normal semester for our students who want that and we think deserve that,” Collingwood said.

About an hour west, Dartmouth College is preparing for half its student body to return by Jan. 18.

Most undergraduate classes will continue to be remote. The school’s provost said that COVID-19 cases in Grafton County are 10 times higher than they were in October.

If caseloads become hard to manage, Dartmouth will take a close look at its plans.