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Mixed reactions towards UMass Amherst's spring semester plans

WSHM 10/24/2020
a sign on the side of a road: (Western Mass News photo) © Provided by WGGB – Western Massachusetts

(Western Mass News photo)

AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The University of Massachusetts Amherst is out with their plans, on Thursday, for the spring semester. The biggest change will be the number of students living on campus and when classes start.

The spring semester is set start on February 1, which is two weeks later than normal. UMass Amherst is increasing the number of students living on campus up to 60 percent capacity. For one UMass freshman, that means setting foot on campus for the first time this school year.

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“I think it’s a good way to plan for the spring semester. It gets a lot of students on campus," said UMass freshman Dylan Jacobs. "It lets the freshman have somewhat of a freshman experience.”

Jacobs told Western Mass News his first semester of college didn’t go quite as planned. He also said he has been doing remote classes at his home in New Jersey, but now Friday’s news about on campus housing has lifted his spirts.

Jacobs, along with other freshmen and transfer students, will get top priority when it comes to living on campus. Also, students who have mandatory face-to-face classes, such as science labs.

This new announcement also includes those who are dependent on university housing and dining, international students, and athletes.

“I guess, it would be the same as if it was a normal year. As if I was living in college in the fall as a freshman," Jacobs said.

Jacobs created an online petition earlier this month asking university officials to let students live on campus, and said he hasn’t heard back from the university. But he’s ready to get out of his family’s house.

“It's not fun to do school at home with three siblings also doing online school, and my dad working from home," he noted. "That hasn’t been a pleasant experience so far.”

Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman told Western Mass News having students on campus is a safe situation. Their concern is the town of Amherst.

“Where we have concern is when students migrate off-campus, going to parties and things like that," Bockelman explained.

Right now, students who live on campus and have in-person classes are required to get coronavirus tests twice a week.

Edward Blaguszewski, executive director of strategic communications for the university, told Western Mass News they plan to also test students who live off-campus twice a week for COVID-19.

“We are expecting off-campus students as many as they do now to be tested twice a week, and we have many students coming in off-campus now to be tested. So that’s part of our commitment," Blaguszewski explained.

Seniors can start registering for classes on Monday, November 2. Freshmen and transfer students currently enrolled will be contacted by UMass about university's housing next week.

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