Macalester College announced Monday it will scale back its fall reopening in favor of starting the semester remotely.

School officials said the change was made in response to rising COVID-19 infection rates in the state. Macalester will also limit the number of students who can live in dormitories and test all students for COVID-19 upon their arrival to campus.

The private college in St. Paul is among the first higher education institutions in Minnesota to roll back its reopening plan. Most Minnesota colleges are planning to offer a mix of online and in-person classes this fall.

“I know this decision represents a significant shift, one that upends plans for many of you and comes with a huge amount of disappointment, frustration, and a range of other emotions,” Macalester President Suzanne Rivera wrote in a message to students.

Macalester is splitting its fall semester into two 7½-week modules. The school had originally planned for two-thirds of its first-module classes to be taught in a hybrid manner, with both online and face-to-face instruction.

Under the changes announced Monday, only new students — first years and transfers — and international students will be permitted to live in campus dormitories during the first half of the semester, which starts Sept. 2. This will reduce dorm occupancy to one student per room, allowing them to quarantine in place if necessary.

Most sophomores, juniors and seniors will not be able to live on campus and must take their classes remotely for the first half of the semester. These students will receive a room and board credit if they had signed up for campus housing. They can still use school facilities and participate in campus life “to the extent that they feel comfortable,” Rivera said.

The school will implement a “quiet period” for students living on campus, starting from when they arrive in late August until Sept. 16. All classes will be taught remotely during this time. Afterward, faculty will decide whether to bring back classroom instruction for first-year students.

Macalester officials are also urging students who will live in residence halls to self-quarantine for two weeks before their arrival. All students will be tested twice for COVID-19, once upon their arrival to campus and a second time within two weeks. Frequent travel to and from campus is discouraged.

No tuition decrease is planned for the fall semester. However, officials announced that students will be able to take two courses — up to eight credits — in the summer 2021 session for free.

Rivera said she hopes all students will be able to return to campus by October.

“It is our sincere desire that conditions will be such that we can dial back up and invite all students back to be in-person,” she said.


Twitter: @ryanfaircloth