Colleges and universities prepare for reopening for fall semester

Colleges and universities across the country are coming up with plans on how to safely reopen for the fall semester.

The coronavirus pandemic caused schools to abruptly close campuses in March.

The Senate, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees heard testimony from presidents of universities and colleges and a public health official Thursday.

Lawmakers and higher education institutions agreed that COVID-19 testing is key to reopening schools.

“All roads back to college lead through testing,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) said.

It was clear through the testimony that the college experience will look a lot different.

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"Concerts and parties are out,” Alexander said. “Grab and go meals, flu shots and temperature checks will be in."

"Social distancing, masks and hygiene measures,” said Dr. Christina Paxson, President of Brown University.

At schools like Purdue University, students and faculty will have the option of taking part in online learning or coming back to campus.

The school will have a large portion of the staff working remotely and they will lower the number of students allowed in classrooms and dormitories at one time.

"There will be a ten-foot minimum between any faculty member and any student and those students will be wearing masks and that faculty member will be behind plexiglass,” said Mitchell Daniels, President of Purdue University.

Health officials warned while students may generally be considered at lower risk because of age, the safety guidelines still need to be strictly enforced.

"While most students are less likely to have severe disease when infected, the risk for serious disease is not zero,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of American Public Health Association.

Data showing that black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 was also part of the discussion.

Dr. Logan Hampton, the president of Lane College, called for more funding from Congress for historically black colleges and universities.

"If my students are disproportionately impacted, then my institution is disproportionately impacted and needs the investment,” Hampton said.