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FPU settles into new normal for fall semester

  • Franklin Pierce Students are required to wear masks in common areas. Courtesy photos—

  • Franklin Pierce Students are required to wear masks in common areas. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/9/2020 4:34:28 PM
Modified: 9/9/2020 4:34:18 PM

Several weeks into the fall semester at Franklin Pierce University, and the dust from the original flurry of COVID-19 testing done on returning students has settled, with the university reporting only one active case currently on the Rindge campus.

Initial testing of students and the first round of randomized weekly testing resulted in a total of 10 positive cases for Franklin Pierce students, the majority of whom chose to quarantine at home, with some remaining on campus in designated quarters.

With random testing being conducted weekly, students attending classes in tents, in the university’s boat house and theater, and quarantine quarters set up for students who test positive for the virus and those who have come into close contact, the school year doesn’t look exactly like it did prior to last March for Franklin Pierce, but the student body is settling into what has become the normal for the 2020-21 school year, said University President Kim Mooney and Dean of Students Andrew Pollom in a recent interview.

“The way spring ended was so frustrating for our students, faculty and staff,” said Pollom. “I hear it constantly: ‘Don’t send us home.’”

Pollom said students and their families were contacted early about expectations on campus – early enough for them to make other arrangements if they didn’t feel they could follow the guidelines set out by the university. Thus far, he said, while the university has had to address issues related to following those guidelines, there haven’t been any major instances of rule-breaking.

“Students and families had a good sense of how it was going to be different from last year before they showed up. If it wasn’t something they were going to prefer, they could opt out,” Pollom said.

And while the enrolling class is slightly smaller than typical, Pollom said the vast majority of returning students have come back to campus.

“We knew it was going to be different,” Mooney said. “We determined early on we were going to have to use our space differently. There are classrooms that are not traditionally used as classrooms.”

Mooney said campus organizers have been taking advantage of the rural nature of the campus to arrange activities such as sunset kayaks on Pearly Pond, which allow for student interaction with proper social distancing.

Clubs and student organizations are being allowed to form and meet, but students must maintain physical distance during activities, and wear face masks. Groups larger than 10 must wear them at all times, even when outdoors.

There has been a learning curve on the use of technology in the classroom, as the college has accommodated distance learning for those quarantined students. Classes for the most part are in-person, with students and faculty wearing masks and with desks situated six feet apart, but those who have positive COVID-19 tests or are identified as having contact with someone with a positive test are able to attend classes and participate in discussions in real time via remote learning.

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