St. Olaf College plans on resuming in-person instruction this fall three weeks earlier than usual.
The semester is scheduled to begin Aug. 20 and concludes the day after Thanksgiving. College officials hope the early start will reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the midst of the late fall/winter flu season.
Students will have an extended holiday break from Nov. 25 through Jan. 3. No fall break is planned.
St. Olaf President David R. Anderson said the college’s top priority is ensuring the health and safety of students and staff.
“Starting early provides the best opportunity to have a full semester of in-person classes before a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, should that occur in late fall,” according to a statement issued by St. Olaf Tuesday. “It also provides an opportunity to conclude the semester before flu season, which will help avoid confusion caused by flu symptoms spreading at the same time as the campus community is carefully monitoring COVID-19 symptoms.”
In order for students to return to campus, they must sign a pledge relating to daily care monitoring and COVID-19 prevention efforts.
St. Olaf has developed community standards with the goal of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Students, staff and faculty members will receive a kit from the college that includes a thermometer, two face coverings, a face shield and hand sanitizer. Daily temperature checks are expected. Health monitoring tools are being developed to determine whether someone is authorized to attend work or classes.
Students are expected to wear face coverings, maintain physical distancing, and adhere to illness, isolation and quarantine protocols.
Students who are sick with COVID-19 symptoms are advised to stay in their residence hall rooms. On-campus students who test positive for COVID-19 will be moved to a room identified for isolation purposes. The college is advising anyone who has recent close contact with a person who tested positive to stay in their living quarters and monitor their health.
St. Olaf will work with the Minnesota Department of Health on contact tracing and supplement their capabilities with the appropriate college resources.
Students are advised to avoid crowded places and mass gatherings.
Carleton is expected to announce the format for this fall in early July.
St. Olaf joins a growing number of other colleges across the state that are opening for in-person instruction, including the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Winona State University and Minnesota State University, Mankato.