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MCLA Announces Plan to Begin In-Person Classes on Sept. 2
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
01:19AM / Friday, June 19, 2020
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — With students assigned one to each dorm room and attending each class one day per week, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts plans to begin in-person education again on Sept. 2.
 
On Thursday, MCLA President James Birge announced to the school community the plan devised by its Return to Campus Advisory Committee.
 
In addition to giving each student in the residence hall system a single room at the same rate they would have paid, students will be expected to leave the campus at the start of the Thanksgiving break in November and not return until spring semester.
 
"While we cannot expect our plan to be perfect or completely free of risk, I am confident that we are establishing an environment for our campus community that is as safe as possible and that returns in a successful manner," Birge wrote in a letter to the community.
 
The college plan calls for a "blended learning model" for classes.
 
Birge said the school anticipates each class will be broken into two or three groups, and each group will attend class one day per week in a manner that allows for social distancing in the classroom.
 
Instructors will design their courses to allow students to participate the rest of the time.
 
"This proposed model combines our signature liberal arts face-to-face practices with an accessible technological environment," Birge wrote.
 
The campus will be cleared out at the end of November to allow time to thoroughly clean MCLA's buildings, but final exams will be held at their regularly scheduled time with the deadline for final grades remaining Dec. 19, Birge wrote.
 
MCLA's housing program will retain 18 beds in six town houses for "isolation/quarantine space." And everyone on campus "will be required to wear a face covering and follow safe social distancing guidelines."
 
"We have taken steps to limit the spread of COVID-19, but the health and safety of the community depend upon all its members accepting the shared risk associated with the disease," Birge wrote.
 
Like many colleges, MCLA closed to in-person classes and moved to a remote learning model in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The college will begin bringing staff back on campus on July 1, starting with a 25 percent of its employees based on building capacities. Each employee will receive a mask, cleaning supplies for their work space and a touchless door opener, Birge wrote.
 
Students returning in August and September will receive several masks, hand sanitizer, a thermometer, tissues, a touchless door opener and educational materials.
 
The college is waiting for guidance from the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference before making any announcements about its fall and winter sports programs, Birge wrote. 
 
Birge referred any students with questions to call the school's coronavirus hotline at 413-662-5550 or to visit mcla.edu/covid-19.
 
"Although returning to campus this fall presents some risk, we will work to make the campus experience as safe as possible for everyone," Birge wrote. "Of course, this means we will have to significantly shift our way of learning, teaching and working. We are prepared to change this plan if confronted with new information or recommendations from the state.
 
"As a community, we have a shared responsibility to keep one another safe. MCLA will require all community members to wear face coverings on campus, respect social distancing guidelines, adhere to [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommendations around hygiene, and stay home if they are not feeling well. We know that some of you have underlying health issues; that necessitates an even greater responsibility to our community and from our leadership to mitigate exposure to COVID-19."
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