Pomona College Releases Plans For Spring Semester On Campus, Classes To Remain Online

In an email sent to the student body earlier today, Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr confirmed that Pomona is currently planning to bring students back to campus, pending approval by LA county officials. Classes will still be held online, and students “will be required to wear masks at all times except when they are alone in their single room or are eating.”

According to Starr, “Pomona is committed to bringing our students back to campus safely and quickly. This will require a phased reopening, and we are confident in our ability to do so – once we receive approval from the county. The outstanding questions now revolve around timeline and process.”

Pomona’s plans are contingent on decisions made at the county level. As Starr explained, “[u]nder Los Angeles County Department of Public Health guidelines, we currently are not permitted to bring students back to campus beyond some very limited circumstances. With responsibility for the nation’s most populous county, home to more than 10 million people, health officials here have taken a cautious approach in a very difficult and complex situation, and higher education institutions have worked with them in a cooperative manner. We will continue to work closely with public health officials, and we also believe Pomona and other institutions have reached a point of preparation and knowledge where a phased and responsible re-opening of higher education campuses should begin. President Starr, chair of the AICCU’s Council for Independent Higher Education Reopening, is speaking out and reaching out. She will be meeting with public health officials in the days ahead to discuss potential pathways for institutions such as Pomona, where we see the potential to create a ‘bubble’ to support public health and protect the wider community.”

For students, the proposed bubble will mean that “[t]he majority of classes will be online, with the possibility of select in-person physical education courses.” Students “will live in single rooms,” with a maximum of four students assigned to one bathroom. According to the email, “[s]tudents will only have access to the residence hall they are assigned. No guests will be allowed in residence halls.”

Restrictions will also be put in place to control when and how students arrive on campus. Per the email:

“Students will be given an appointment for their arrival times…Family members and guests will not be allowed into the residence halls…Students will only be allowed to bring three bags. In case we must evacuate campus, students will be required to take all their belongings with them.” 

When students were forced to evacuate campus last semester, Pomona provided storage space for the belongings they left behind.

Regarding quarantine requirements, Pomona stated that “[s]tudents may be encouraged to quarantine in advance of moving to campus. All students will be tested for COVID-19 on arrival followed by a quarantined period on campus. Following the initial quarantine, students will be subjected to surveillance testing. Students who test positive for COVID-19 must immediately move from their residence hall room and into a room designated for isolation. Students will be allowed to move back to their residence hall room when they are cleared by Student Health Services.” Student gatherings will be held outside, and it is unclear if any gathering spaces inside residence halls will be made available for student use.

Dining halls will also be affected by the proposed restrictions.  Ordinarily, students are allowed to serve themselves from a rotating array of foods and choose a meal plan in accordance with their personal needs. Under this plan, however, “[a]ll students will be on a meal plan with extended hours. Students will not have access to kitchens in residence halls. Dining halls will provide grab-and-go food, and seating areas will be outside.”

Other provisions include requiring students “to wear masks at all times except when they are alone in their single room or are eating,” and disallowing students to have cars on campus “as travel to and from campus will be limited.”

Pomona has also hinted at potential ramifications for those who violate any of the aforementioned rules. According to Starr’s email, “[a]ll students will be required to sign an agreement which outlines all policies related to public health. Students who jeopardize their health and potentially, the health of others, will be sanctioned. The sanctioning process will include warnings and will escalate to being required to leave campus within 24 hours depending on the nature of the incident.”

According to Starr, “[t]his list is just a beginning, as there are many details still to be determined based on guidance from the county and state, and we are providing it as a glimpse of possible restrictions on ‘traditional’ student life.”

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