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College confirms in-person classes to begin on Jan. 10, extends take-out only service in dining halls

January 7, 2022

Jan. 7 | 9:50 p.m.

Winter Study courses will return to in-person instruction on Monday, Jan. 10, Chief Communications Officer Jim Reische announced in an all-campus email this afternoon. He noted that the College will change its plan depending on the COVID-19 outlook, but this return to in-person teaching is based on the College’s current policies on masking, regular surveillance testing, high vaccination rates, and the College’s ability to respond to positive test results so far.

Dining halls will be open for take-out only through Jan. 16 — all seating areas inside these areas will be closed, Reische wrote. He added that the GET App, the College’s mobile food ordering system, will be offline on Jan. 10 and Jan. 11 for a system update. During this time, Fresh & Go will be open for walk-through pick-up, Lee Snack Bar and Eco Café will be open for in-person ordering, and ’82 Grill will be closed, according to the College’s Dining website.

Reische also wrote that all students should test on Tuesday and Thursday during the week of Jan. 17, since all campus COVID testing sites will be closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Otherwise, students with last names starting with letters A through L should schedule tests on Mondays and Wednesdays beginning Jan. 10, whereas students with last names starting with letters M through Z should schedule tests on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Reische’s email also recommended that members of the campus community wear KN95 masks, with double-masking by layering a cloth mask over a surgical mask as an alternative. Reische also noted that the College will provide students who move into isolation with the “appropriate masks.” Due to the Omicron variant’s high rate of transmission, the College also suggests wearing masks while socializing outside when within six feet of others. Reische also noted that cloth masks alone are not sufficient to stop Omicron’s spread.

 Faculty and staff who test positive will be required to self-isolate at home for at least five days, according to the College’s website. They are allowed to return to work on the sixth day after their positive test if they no longer have any symptoms and have 24 hours without a fever. Those who return to work after a positive test must wear a KN95 mask — which the College will provide — everywhere on campus, both inside and outside, through the tenth day. If symptoms continue past the fifth day, they must quarantine for a full 10 days and may return to work on day 11. 

While personal travel is not prohibited, Reische wrote that it is “definitely discouraged, since Covid rates are lower on campus than off.” Reische also announced that students who leave campus during the week between the end of Winter Study and the start of the spring semester will be required to quarantine upon return. Students who stay on campus will only be required to continue their assigned testing schedule.

In a follow-up email to the Record, Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom clarified that students who have tested positive within the last 90 days do not need to test upon arrival and therefore will not be required to quarantine after returning if they leave campus before the beginning of the spring semester. They would, however, still be required to follow all other COVID guidelines, such as masking in all indoor spaces excluding their room and personal common room. 

Reische added that college events would be restricted to faculty, staff, and students, with the exception of admission tours, which will be conducted solely outdoors. Members of the public, outside of guest speakers, job candidates, and others explicitly invited by the College, will only be allowed inside the libraries and the Williams College Museum of Art. 

Reische expressed the College’s expectations that students make an effort to minimize in-person activities. “Informal gatherings of any size or duration are strongly discouraged,” he wrote. “This isn’t a good time for parties or large get-togethers.” 

In a campus-wide email on Jan. 10, Director of Student Involvement and Events Mike Bodnarik elaborated on the College’s policy on social gatherings. Though it is recommended that students meet virtually if possible, any request for an in-person meeting or event must be submitted through the College Room Scheduler and many not involve eating or drinking. Bodnarik also wrote that requests for smaller spaces and any event large enough to require staffing from the College, such as a capella performances or comedy shows, would not be considered until Jan. 18 “at the earliest.” 

This article was updated on Jan. 10 to include comment from Sandstrom and the contents of Bonarik’s campus-wide email.

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