University System of NH system-wide response to COVID-19

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CONCORD, NH – The University System of New Hampshire (USNH), the state’s public four-year system comprising Granite State College (GSC), Keene State College (KSC), Plymouth State University (PSU), and the University of New Hampshire (UNH), is working in close partnership with state health leaders and governmental leaders to ensure that our response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic puts the health and safety of our students, employees, and larger communities first, while also doing our utmost to preserve our ability to fulfill our mission of education and research and service.

Our approach, which will continue to evolve as rapidly developing circumstances warrant, is fully informed by and consistent with the latest data and guidance from experts from the New Hampshire Chief Epidemiologist, Chief of the New Hampshire Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, and the CDC. We are grateful for the support of our Governor and other State leaders as we navigate our way through this rapidly evolving challenge.

As a first, measured step in what is sure to be an evolving strategy, we will be restricting certain access to USNH campuses during the two-week period following spring break. The campuses will continue to operate and conduct normal business. However, students traveling during the break to areas outside of New Hampshire that pose an increased risk of infection, or who are experiencing flu-like symptoms, or have come in contact with anyone suspected or known to be infected by COVID-19, are being asked to self-quarantine and to stay away from campus for no less than two weeks. Specific guidelines for the requirement to self-quarantine have been provided to all of students and employees and will be continuously updated and communicated. The breadth of our guidelines restricting the return to campus is based upon an abundance of caution.

Students who did not spend spring break in designated higher-risk areas, who do not show flu-like symptoms and have not come in contact with people suspected or known to be infected, will be allowed to return to campus after spring break. However, they are not required to return to campus during this two-week period. Since many students will be restricted from returning, most instruction during the two-week period will be conducted through online or other remote methods.

There will be some variations from campus to campus. Plymouth State University, which returns from spring break on Monday, March 16, and which has fewer returning students from higher-risk areas, will have fewer restrictions on campus life and more class-based instruction. UNH, which returns from spring break on March 23, and which has many more students who are residents of higher risk states, will have no class-based instruction during this two-week period and highly restrictive campus life. All classes at UNH will be delivered remotely during this two-week period, access to campus by students who do not need to quarantine will be restricted, and student campus activities will be canceled. Reflecting its particular circumstances, the Keene State College campus will be somewhat less restricted than UNH, but more restricted than PSU. Most of its courses will be delivered remotely. For specific information about how each campus is adapting this general response to its particular circumstances, please consult their websites directly.

Prior to this two-week period, during spring break, we will not close our residential campuses. Since we believe our New Hampshire campuses may in fact be safer environments than potentially higher risk areas that many of our students might otherwise travel to, we are making food service and housing options available to our students during spring break at no additional cost. We want to ensure that any student who feels safer on campus or does not have other residential options has a safe place to live during the break and transition period.

During spring break and over the course of this two-week period following spring break, we will closely monitor the spread of the virus, new guidelines and information from health officials, evolving approaches across higher education, and of course our own experiences on campus and on-line. We will also be working closely with the state to strengthen our capacity to isolate and test any students or employees who show COVID-19-like symptoms while on campus. Based on this additional information and experience, we will adjust our approach for the balance of the spring semester. In the best of circumstances, we will be able to resume in-class activities and gradually return to a more normal campus life. On the other hand, it is very possible that we will have to continue remote teaching and further tighten the restrictions on access to campus.

We recognize that this is a stressful and disorienting moment for everyone. Our first principle is to protect public health and wellbeing. We are attempting to fulfill our mission as public educators as best we can under these difficult circumstances without in any way compromising the health and safety of our students, employees and communities.

About the University System of New Hampshire

The University System of New Hampshire (USNH) enrolls 32,000 students and consists of four public institutions: Granite State College, Keene State College, Plymouth State University and the University of New Hampshire. USNH strives to ensure the availability of appropriate and accessible higher educational opportunities throughout New Hampshire and addresses critical state workforce needs.  A 29-member Board of Trustees is responsible for overseeing the University System.