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UMPI announces Safe Return Plan for Fall 2020

With the health and safety of the campus community as its top priority, and with major themes of support, response, and personal accountability in mind, the University of Maine at Presque Isle announced today its Safe Return Plan for the fall semester.

“Our Safe Return plans have been the collective work of the faculty, staff, and administration here at UMPI trying to find the best, safest, and most robust ways to protect the health of our campus community this fall,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “Our plans cover every aspect of our day-to-day campus operations, from how we will carry out our academic instruction and residence life efforts, to the wide range of health safety practices in which everyone will participate, to the physical modifications that will be made to our campus environment. It’s a fall semester like nothing we’ve ever prepared for before, but it’s what we know needs to be done to ensure everyone’s health and safety.”

As part of the plan, which can be found at www.umpi.edu/return/plan, there will be a phased return of residence hall students in August, the start of classes on Aug. 31, and an end to in-person instruction on the Friday before Thanksgiving. The rest of the semester will take place remotely. Ahead of the Thanksgiving break, classes will be in a hybrid format—simultaneously in-person and virtual) whenever possible.

Through a University of Maine System partnership, UMPI will conduct COVID-19 testing before and during the semester. These screenings will allow the campus to ensure that asymptomatic individuals, such as students traveling to campus from out of state, are COVID-free.

In addition to testing, the University will put multiple safeguards in place to prevent the potential spread of infection. This includes protocols for limiting group gatherings to 50, social distancing, face coverings, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, hand washing, temperature checks, and thorough and frequent campus cleaning. It also includes the installation of items such as plexiglass barriers, signage, and arrows to indicate traffic flow.

These changes will impact campus spaces and how people operate in them. For example, social distancing protocols will impact in-person class sessions as student seating will need to be spaced at least 6 feet apart, reducing classroom capacity. In some cases, classroom furniture may be removed to accommodate this. Face covering practices, as another example, will impact everyone on campus: employees will need to wear them in all public spaces and in spaces used by multiple people, and residence hall students will need to wear them except when they are in their own rooms, or are eating, drinking, brushing teeth, or showering.

If a case should be confirmed despite these efforts, the University has contingency plans in place for isolating the disease, ensuring the safety of others, and transitioning to alternate operations if needed.

The University has established a new website, www.umpi.edu/return, to serve as the most up-to-date resource for its Safe Return plans. The website houses the plan, an FAQ, links to resources, and details specific to current students, employees, future students, and campus visitors.

UMPI’s new “All Owls In” Pledge also can be found on this website. This pledge serves as campus community members’ commitment to each other to ensure a safe and healthy campus environment. Officials are asking each member of the campus community to make the pledge and do everything possible to protect each other from COVID-19.

The University is aligning its plans with the timetable and guidelines of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Governor’s Office. All of this planning is being done with the understanding that, due to the nature of this pandemic, all plans are subject to change.

“Especially because this is an evolving situation, our promise to our campus community has been to provide clarity, share frequent updates, and seek feedback to further strengthen our plan,” President Rice said. “This will no doubt be a very different fall for us, but with our collective efforts to keep each other safe, we will see each other through this semester.”

For more information about UMPI’s Safe Return plans, visit www.umpi.edu/return.