University of Maine Plans for ‘Near Normalcy' in Fall Semester

Schools in the University of Maine System will commit to holding 54% of classes in person when students return in fall of 2021

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This week, the University of Maine System made decisions impacting thousands of college students going to school in Maine.

The school announced it would return to a more "traditional campus experience" and "near normalcy" for the fall 2021 semester.

"We are actively working toward normalcy," said Dannel Malloy, the chancellor of the University of Maine System, during a press conference on Wednesday.

Malloy, the former governor of Connecticut, explained that an increasing and more certain national supply of COVID-19 vaccines is making the school more confident about what it can offer for in-person learning.

Malloy believes the vast majority of staff should be able to get vaccines by the end of spring, with "25% of our workforce already eligible and 75% eligible by May."

That does not mean COVID-19 precautions at UMS schools are going away. However, they may be adjusted based on the state of the pandemic in the fall.

"We're not saying we won't be worried about COVID," said Malloy.

For a number students, the news is welcome, with participants in Wednesday's event saying they missed pre-pandemic socialization among their peers.

"I'm definitely not a student that learns very easily online, I prefer hands on," one student said. Another highlighted "collectivism where we bond together as a group."

Though the school system is saying it will commit to holding 54% of classes in-person and just 15% online, there are still a few large unknowns facing administrators ahead of fall.

Those include plans for what form commencements will take at the conclusion of the spring semester, as well as how many students will be vaccinated by fall.

Malloy said UMS is not requiring students to have COVID-19 vaccines before returning to campus, but that the schools hope eligible and able students receive them.

"We're not currently requiring it because the three vaccines have not received regular approval, but emergency approval," he said, pointing out that "only one vaccine is approved down to age 16."

Malloy and university presidents said they would share more information about their plan for normalcy in the coming weeks as more information about how the pandemic is evolving becomes available.

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