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U.S. colleges weigh return to campus life

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The global pandemic upended the final months of campus life for college students, and left a huge question mark hanging over the start of classes in the fall.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND PRESIDENT JAMES HERBERT, SAYING:

"We have a plan and we feel like we're going to be able to do it and be open. Now, exactly what that's gonna look like is still to be determined. There will be changes, I'm sure, but one way or another, we're going to be open."

James Herbert is the president of the University of New England, a private college in Maine.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND PRESIDENT JAMES HERBERT, SAYING:

"At the moment, we are looking at reducing our largest class sizes. Now, the nice thing about a smaller university like UNE is that unlike a big state school, we don't have classes with, you know, two, three or four hundred students in them."

But dormitories, with characteristically close quarters, pose a problem.

Herbert said UNE is looking at testing students for the virus, and for antibodies, and using the results to pair roommates together.

The school is also considering renting rooms at a hotel near campus to space students out.

Larger universities face a larger challenge.

A spokesperson for Stanford University in California said the school is considering holding classes outdoors in large tents.

Brown University in Rhode Island may require students and faculty to wear face masks and place limits on athletics, concerts and parties.

But students may not feel safe.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) MADELEINE LARSEN, SECOND-YEAR UCLA STUDENT, SAYING:

"I'm not expecting, obviously, to go back to school fully next year, completely."

Madeleine Larson is a second-year student at UCLA. Kelden Larson is entering first year at California Polytechnic State University. They're from New Mexico, and would need housing to attend class in-person.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) KELDEN LARSEN, ENTERING FIRST-YEAR AT CALIFORNIA POLYTECHNIC STATE UNIVERSITY, SAYING:

"I don't think that's safe at all. I mean, even if we do have smaller classes, right. It would mean that everyone would still be in the dorms and there's like communal bathrooms and everything. And if one person in the entire building, I feel like if they were to get coronavirus, then it would spread throughout the building very easily."

Last week the president of the UC schools said campuses would need to satisfy statewide health guidelines before reopening.

Other schools says they're still working out what their protocols will be.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) UNIVERSITY OF NEW ENGLAND PRESIDENT JAMES HERBERT, SAYING:

"Will there be some degrees of social distancing in effect? Absolutely. It's hard to know exactly what those are going to look like right now.”

Herbert said the University of New England may send "consent forms" to students and their parents making clear they are "assuming a somewhat higher risk" by returning to campus.

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