On June 24, the University of Rhode Island announced its plan to welcome students back to campus this fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In an email sent to all students and published on the University’s website and social media accounts, URI announced that students will return to campus in the fall, although campus and student life will have major changes to ensure safety and health for all. 

Classes will be offered in three different ways: in-person, blended and online. Many classes will be offered online to reduce the number of people in classrooms, but courses that require specific, in-person resources such as labs, performing arts and graduate programs will include face-to-face learning. Blended classes use a combination of in-person and online instruction.

The academic calendar has also been updated to accommodate the COVID-19 situation at URI. Classes will start as originally planned with the first day being Sept. 9. However, on-campus classes will end at Thanksgiving break, Nov. 25. The remainder of classes will be held online until Dec. 14 when finals begin, which will be online-only as well. The University made these changes in order to allow students to return home for Thanksgiving and not have to return to campus until after winter break. 

Many classrooms and learning spaces are being redesigned in order to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines of social distancing and group sizes. Individuals will be required to conduct health screenings on themselves each day before coming to campus, a testing plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus, face masks required to be worn by all individuals while on campus, physical distancing and frequent hand washing and sanitizing. 

The University said that they will be further investing in “state-of-the-art learning software” to better accommodate the various classroom changes. Faculty members are required to take at least one boot camp hosted by the Office for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning to better equip them for teaching online and blended courses. 

Students will continue to have access to advising, tutoring and career services, according to the University. 

Residence halls will open in the fall, but with limited capacity compared to previous years. In a follow-up email on June 25, URI announced that it will reduce the number of on-campus housing opportunities from the typical 6,200 to 4,400, making it impossible to house all students that want to live on the Kingston campus. Housing will be prioritized for first-year students, out-of-state transfer students, out-of-state returning students and a select amount of special accommodations for students with extenuating circumstances. Most rooms will be reduced to single occupancy, for at least the beginning of the year, subject to change if the COVID-19 situation improves, according to the University. 

In response to the loss of the 1,800 housing spots, the University is forming a Transition Assistance Grant (TAG) for students that are resultantly displaced from the new circumstances. Any students that previously qualified for on-campus housing but now do not will receive a “$1,500 credit to their student account for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters ($3,000 total if continuously enrolled), and a 50-meal dining plan and free parking for the fall 2020 semester,” from the TAG. 

The move-in process for students will likely begin on Aug. 29 and continue until Sept. 5-7 to ensure a structured, scheduled and safe moving process for all. 

The dining halls will be open, but likely for take-out meals only, although the University is currently exploring the idea of reservations to eat inside during the fall. Students with any questions or concerns should visit the URI COVID-19 response website at web.uri.edu/coronavirus/ or contact the COVID-19 response hotline at 401.874.3082, available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.