Simon's Rock students to return for mostly in-person classes

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Before returning to Bard College at Simon's Rock later this month, students will be asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.

And once on campus, they'll quarantine for up to two weeks before beginning classes, most of which will be held in-person.

The college on Monday released its plan to reopen campus for the fall 2020 semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan, created by a handful of committees at Simon's Rock, with the help of state and local authorities, public health officials, the provost, College Counsel and Bard College, is focused on prioritizing public health and safety of the campus and Berkshire County community.

"The core consideration in our decision to return to campus this fall is the safety of our students, faculty, staff and neighbors," said Provost John Weinstein in the release. "We believe that primarily in-person instruction complemented by a robust program of ongoing, community-wide testing, personal safety practices, and training and education is the best way to safely deliver the Simon's Rock educational experience while maintaining and strengthening our community"

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Students will arrive on campus, in phases, starting on Aug. 17 and classes are slated to begin on Aug. 31. In order to minimize travel, a revised fall academic calendar has been created for both Bard Academy and Bard College at Simon's Rock.

Students will only return home for November break, but will remain home for the rest of the fall semester. The final two weeks of classes are to be conducted online.

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Following the quarantine period, students will establish a contained community that practices strict social distancing measures, including symptom monitoring and ongoing testing throughout the semester, according to the release.

"I am pleased that Simon's Rock's reopening plan goes above and beyond minimum best practices for COVID-19 safety," said Great Barrington Town Manager Mark Pruhenski, in the release. "I'm confident that this plan will help ensure the health and well being of the Simon's Rock community, as well as that of Great Barrington and Berkshire County."

Simon's Rock has partnered with the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in order to provide free COVID-19 testing for students, staff and faculty throughout the fall semester. Results of these tests will be delivered within 48 hours and if any member of the community is exposed to, or tests positive for COVID-19, the college has created contact tracing procedures, isolation protocols and accommodations, along with a plan of notifying local officials.

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Campus access is limited to students, faculty, staff and authorized visitors in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Kilpatrick Athletic Center members will be allowed on campus only for the use of the Kilpatrick facility.

Simon's Rock has also partnered with the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center for a drive-in theater program that will run through Labor Day. Ticket holders are allowed access to the location of the drive-ins at the Daniel Arts Center parking lot, but they will not be allowed past the designated area, which includes campus buildings.

Members of the Simon's Rock community are expected to observe personal safety practices that were outlined by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, which includes hand washing, the use of face masks or face coverings, social distancing and daily symptom monitoring. Simon's Rock is also requiring faculty, students and staff to complete a COVID-19 training program and sign a pledge affirming their understanding of campus polices.

Simon's Rock will continue to assess the public health situation and will update its plan as new guidance is announced. More information, along with updates on Simon's Rock COVID-19 polices, are available on the school's website.

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