Members of the Boston College community are tested for coronavirus earlier this week at Conte Forum. Photo by Peter Julian.
Boston College prepared to formally begin the 2021 spring semester today, looking to build on the success of health and safety protocols that enabled the University to maintain most of its operations last fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once again, BC will offer a combination of in-person, online, and hybrid classes. Face masks are required in classrooms—which were reorganized to ensure social distancing, and are limited to 50 percent capacity—and common areas throughout campus. A number of University offices and departments are still operating on alternate-day or staggered schedules.
BC Dining Services will continue to serve meals in to-go containers. There will be limited seating capacity and maximum table seating of 90 minutes or less for those choosing to eat in the dining halls; masks must be worn at all times and can only be removed when eating or drinking.
The spring semester schedule, announced in October, will not include a traditional spring break, which this year would have taken place March 1-5; however, the University will not hold classes on March 3. In observance of Easter, classes will end at 4 p.m. on Holy Thursday (April 1) and resume on the morning of Easter Monday (April 5). Due to the postponement of the Boston Marathon, the University will be open on Patriot’s Day (April 19). Final exams will be held between May 11 and 18.
The University resumed regular COVID-19 testing on January 19 in Conte Forum; during this period, which ends Sunday (January 31), all members of the University community planning to be on campus for the spring semester must be tested, except those who have tested positive via a valid PCR test within the previous 90 days. Symptomatic and targeted asymptomatic testing for all BC community members will continue throughout the semester, regardless of whether or not individuals receive a COVID-19 vaccination; schedules will be posted on the Reopening Boston College website.
In recent letters to the BC community, University President William P. Leahy, S.J., and other senior administrators offered praise and encouragement for students, faculty, and staff while reminding them of the importance in continuing to follow the COVID-19 guidelines.
Fr. Leahy expressed thanks for “the generosity, dedication, and creativity of our campus community” in accomplishing, “in impressive fashion,” the goals for the 2020-21 academic year: providing “an experience that was as normal and safe as possible and to maintain the health of students, faculty, and staff.”
He lauded the success of faculty and administrators in devising effective ways of teaching with different formats, and noted that semester evaluations indicated students had commended the “overall educational experience”; faculty reported that Zoom conferencing “encouraged more students to take advantage of office hours and advising sessions,” he added.
Fr. Leahy also complimented staff in University Health Services, Facilities, Dining Services, Residential Life, Information Technology Services, and Human Resources for working long hours “to identify and help meet campus health and safety needs.”
He cited the creation and implementation of the COVID-19 testing and treatment plan—which included daily symptoms monitoring, symptomatic and targeted asymptomatic testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, special housing locations, and necessary food delivery—as another achievement of the fall semester. From August 16 through December 21, University Health Services, assisted by faculty and students in the Connell School of Nursing, athletic trainers, and Eagle EMS members, conducted 140,535 COVID-19 tests; the community positivity rate was 0.36 percent, significantly below local, state, and national averages. Of the approximately 8,700 undergraduates on campus, testing identified 436 as positive. Fortunately, none required hospitalization, and all returned to normal activities upon completing isolation, Fr. Leahy noted.
Earlier, Executive Vice President Michael Lochhead, Provost and Dean of Faculties David Quigley, and University Health Services Director Dr. Douglas Comeau outlined health and safety measures for the start of the spring semester, including move-in procedures for students living on campus and the schedule for COVID-19 testing.
“We had a successful fall semester, and we ask for your cooperation and support again in following University and public health protocols so that we may have a safe, healthy, and productive spring semester,” the letter concluded.
University Communications | January 2021