UD to start spring semester online, in-person components to resume Feb. 1

University of Dayton officials on Wednesday released plans for students to return to campus for spring semester after a surge in COVID-19 cases marred the start of fall semester.

Students will start returning to campus on Jan. 15 with 500-600 scheduled to move in each day. Classes will start online Jan. 19 and in-person components will start resuming Feb. 1.

All undergraduate and graduate students who live on campus must receive a UD-administered, quick-turn COVID-19 test as part of move-in procedures. Coronavirus tests taken off-campus will not be accepted. Any student avoiding testing before moving in or repeatedly violating campus health and safety guidelines could face sanctions from UD, including being barred from campus and suspension.

University President Eric Spina said in an interview Wednesday that he does not expect to see a spike in COVID-19 cases when students return, like they saw in the fall when more than 1,100 cases followed the weeks after school resumed in August.

Spina said the availability of tests that can yield results in 20-30 minutes instead of days is a major difference between then and now.

“The point-of-care testing is just a huge advance for us, really puts us in a different position, much more in control of our own destiny,” he said.

“The second thing is the students now know what behaviors will lead to spread and what behaviors will prevent spread. And I’m confident that between our encouragement and their own peer influencing that they will be in a position where they are doing the things they need to do, and avoiding the things that lead to trouble.”

UD ended the fall semester with a positivity rate of 0.5%, which was considerably lower than the rest of Montgomery County, as noted in a Newsweek article last week that said UD “could be the model for in-person learning in COVID-19 world.”

In preparation for returning to campus, the university recommends students begin quarantining and limiting contact 14 days before their scheduled return day.

If a student coming back to campus tests positive for the virus in their initial screening, they will be sent home to recover and quarantine if they live within 400 miles. If they get sick after moving in, Spina said the university has dedicated housing units for students to isolate and quarantine.

Once students are back on campus and test negative for the virus, they are asked to avoid leaving campus for extended periods of time. Spina said they will continue random surveillance testing like they did in the fall, especially early in the semester, but it will be a higher number of students and results will come in faster because of the improved tests.

“We will be on the lookout for any clusters that might be forming, and then we’ll target those areas, target those groups, and make sure we’re testing enough people to try to limit the spread,” he said.

In October, the University of Dayton announced it hit a record enrollment of 11,677 students. University officials say 6,100 undergraduates live in campus housing and residence halls.

Spina said the current plan is subject to change.

“Continued agility is going to be important,” he said. “Between now and Jan. 15, who knows what might come out of the county public health, the state department of health or even nationally in terms of new restrictions or expectations, so we will continue to be on the lookout, partner with our governmental authorities and make adjustments as necessary.”