Drew University plans to reopen for fall semester on Aug 16 — with social distancing on campus

SHEEPSKIN AND AN ELBOW BUMP: Drew students stage mock 'commencement,' as they prepare to leave the campus, March 2020.
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Drew University, which closed its Madison campus in mid March because of the pandemic, plans to reopen for the fall semester on Aug. 16, 2020, the school announced on Tuesday.

Classes will start on Aug. 24, although they will be conducted online for the first three weeks as students and staff adjust to the “new normal,” the school said on its website.

On-campus residency for the semester will end during Thanksgiving week, with the remainder of course work occurring online, to prevent students from importing the coronavirus to Drew after their holiday break.

Quarantine and isolation centers will be established on campus for students unable to return home if an outbreak occurs.

“Our goal, while upholding very high health and safety standards as our first priority, is to provide an authentic campus experience that is rich with the hallmarks of a Drew education—meaningful, personalized, relationship-based learning and living, even in the face of a pandemic,” President MaryAnn Baenninger wrote to the school community.

“Our plan to achieve that goal includes an effort to reduce uncertainty, while remaining flexible and nimble during this quickly evolving health crisis.”

Baenninger will be stepping down as president on July 31. A search committee will name an interim successor.

Plans for reopening are being devised by a task force of Drew officials. Those plans, which will follow guidelines established by health experts and Gov. Phil Murphy, will encompass “social distancing practices, ‘family unit’ living protocols for residence halls, monitoring and tracking, face covering requirements, dining plan and policy changes, outbreak containment and strict attention to disinfection and clean environments,” the school stated.

Evacuation protocols also will be created, “in the unlikely event they are needed,” the school said.

Drew staged a virtual commencement for the Class of 2020 earlier this month. An on-campus event tentatively is scheduled for August.

The school’s announced reopening comes as colleges and universities across the country strive to remain viable in the face of a pandemic that has obliterated the “college experience” — a major selling point for schools, and a major expense for students.

According to Drew’s website, the Methodist school has more than 2,000 students and 148 faculty members. After slashing its tuition by 20 percent in 2017,  annual tuition, room and board come to about $55,000.

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