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Boston University Coronavirus Plan Includes Possible January 2021 Reopening

Boston University students walk past the school's student union. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Boston University students walk past the school's student union. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Boston University may delay reopening its campus until January 2021, the school said in a university news article Friday. The move comes as universities across New England and the country evaluate ways to keep their fall semesters intact while adhering to best practices for public health.

Massachusetts universities shuttered one after another in March as the coronavirus outbreak intensified, cancelling in-person classes and asking students to move out of on-campus housing to stem the virus' spread. Since then, some schools have begun repurposing facilities to contribute to the state's response efforts.

Just this week, Northeastern University and Tufts University opened up campus dormitories to house patients, medical professionals and first responders unable or unwilling to return home for fear of infecting their families.

A BU spokesman said the university is focused on returning to in-person, on-campus operations this fall. BU's recovery plan, outlined Thursday by University President Robert A. Brown and spearheaded by five working groups, assesses how the school might resume research, classes, and residential programs in the fall semester.

“We’ve made the big decisions relating to the spring and summer,” Brown said. “We are now in a position to focus on the fall and the best and safest way in which to bring the residential teaching and research community back onto campus when time and public health considerations permit.”

The plan recognizes that the beginning of the fall term may have to be delayed, and that a January reopening might be necessary. It seeks to define “what a residential research university will look like in the early days of the post-pandemic world” — when large gatherings may be limited, and dining and housing operations could be subject to much stricter policies.

The university also said it recognizes that international students will feel the brunt of these changes.

“International students are likely to face unique burdens, such as travel restrictions and interruptions in the processing of visas, and it suggests that some popular master’s programs may have to be offered remotely,” the school reported.

The university will conduct summer 2020 courses remotely, and will continue to provide its current housing and dining offerings. Research will resume when public health considerations permit it, Brown said.

“[The working groups] represent the academic and research portfolio of the University," University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Jean Morrison said in the statement. "We believe there are going to be important changes in how we go about educating our students and doing research, and we are trying to put the subject matter experts in leadership roles so we can formulate a plan that we can act on."

This article was originally published on April 11, 2020.

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Elie Levine Twitter Freelance Digital Producer
Elie Levine is a freelance digital producer for WBUR.

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