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Central Michigan University brings students back to campus for fall despite coronavirus

Students will return to Central Michigan University in the fall, the Mount Pleasant school announced Monday, despite expected continued health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Students are likely to be sitting farther apart in classrooms, and dormitory suites will have fewer residents, but the school’s 21,000 students will be back in Mount Pleasant, CMU President Bob Davies said Monday in a news release.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff remains our top priority, and we will continue to closely follow guidance from local, state and national health leaders as we move forward with plans to resume in-person instruction,” Davies said. "COVID-19 has changed the way higher education will be delivered in the future and requires us to think creatively and innovatively about our operations at CMU.”

All of Michigan’s public universities, private colleges and community colleges closed in-person classes in March to try to stem the spread of the potentially deadly virus. Most campuses have yet to decide whether students will return in September, at a time before a COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be developed.

College officials across the state are wrestling with how to protect student and staff health while also providing quality education. Officials at several schools told Bridge last week they feared enrollment would drop if campuses were closed in the fall and students were asked to take courses online.

CMU is the sixth of Michigan’s public universities to announce its fall plans, and the fifth to say most classes will held in-person and on-campus. Oakland University in Oakland County, which has been hard-hit by the potentially deadly virus, will offer the majority of its classes online, and students and staff on campus will wear face masks.

CMU will reduce the number of students living in each residential suite, and an on-campus isolation and quarantine space has been established in the event of new cases of COVID-19 in the community.

Davies said the university also will offer remote and online options for students and faculty who are unable or unwilling to return to campus.

Plans are being developed to increase social distancing in classrooms, offices and other communal areas on campus.

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