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How some colleges plan to reopen this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic

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Some universities across the country have started to reveal plans to open their campuses in the fall, after the coronavirus pandemic forced universities across the nation to shut down in favor of remote learning.

The University of Notre Dame announced earlier this week it will welcome students back to campus this summer, starting the semester two weeks earlier than usual. Students there will skip fall break, allowing them to complete the semester by Thanksgiving.

The university hopes that by ending the semester by the holiday, they will reduce the chance of students bringing the virus back to campus and avoid an expected second wave.

Notre Dame's president voiced confidence in the return plan.

"Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed. We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet," said Reverend John I. Jenkins.

New York University, one of the largest private universities in the U.S., followed by announcing it is aiming to start the 2020-21 academic year with in-person learning. 

"We are planning to reconvene at NYU's campuses and sites in New York City, the US, and abroad," the university wrote in a letter to undergraduates. Like many universities across the nation, NYU shifted to remote learning in March in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Also planning to reopen is the University of South Carolina. The institution told students the campus will reopen for three months starting in August, in a plan that could emerge as a common strategy. Like Notre Dame, students at South Carolina will skip fall break to reduce the health risks associated with travel that the university says "could jeopardize the continuation of the semester." After Thanksgiving break, students will stay home and resume remote learning, as they anticipate a second wave of coronavirus cases.

"Our best current modelling predicts a spike in cases of COVID-19 at the beginning of December, which also will likely coincide with traditional flu season," the university said in a statement.

Meanwhile, California's state university system, the largest public university system in the nation with 23 universities, is opting for remote learning in the fall.

"This approach to virtual planning is necessary for many reasons. First and foremost is the health, safety and welfare of our students, faculty and staff, and the evolving data surrounding the progression of COVID-19 — current and as forecast throughout the 2020-21 academic year," Chancellor Timothy White announced Tuesday at a Board of Trustees meeting.

While there is not a straight-cut path to reopening colleges, the schools have proposed a myriad of ways to resume face-to-face classes safely. They range from implementing regular testing for COVID-19, contact tracing and mask requirements, to practicing social distancing and regular cleaning of campuses.

NYU told students it will be flexible with the upcoming academic year and allow students to take classes over two or three semesters, and choose to take courses remotely or in-person. The university, which boasts one of the largest international student populations in the United States, will also allow undergraduates to take courses at any of its global campuses if they have citizenship or residency rights in that country.

Meanwhile, overseas, Cambridge University in England has decided to suspend face-to-face lectures until the summer of 2021.

"Given the likely need for continued social distancing, we have decided to suspend mass lectures in person for the next academic year," the university said in a statement.

Lectures will be available online, but the 800-year-old institution hopes that small group teachings "will continue in person as much as possible."

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