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Regional News

Colleges and universities open spring semester with varying policies for in-person classes

American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Huang 'Leon' Nguyen
The Republican / masslive.com
American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Despite the recent COVID-19 surge, college students have begun to return to western Massachusetts for the spring semester. But schools are making different choices about when and where to begin classes.

Some colleges, such as Amherst, Williams and Smith, are starting the semester virtually for the first week or two. But others, like Springfield College, are holding in-person classes right from the start.

"We found over the past year-and-a-half that when we had in-person classes, we haven't been able to trace transmission back to those classroom environments," said Elizabeth Morgan, interim associate vice president for academic affairs. "We do see with all these safety protocols in place that our classrooms seem to be a pretty safe space."

Some schools chose to delay start the spring semester, but Springfield College began classes as scheduled.

That was also the case down the street at American International College. Matthew Scott, vice president for student affairs, said school leaders considered starting later. But in the end, he said, the decision was made to start as planned.

"When you have 98% of the employees and the students on campus vaccinated, and now a booster requirement in place as well, along with strict masking, we just feel like we have done everything we can to keep the students safe, so we didn't feel the need to back up our semester," Scott said.

There is some common ground as far as requirements for students. Most area colleges and universities are requiring COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for nearly all students, and masks are to be worn indoors.