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University News

Keeping a Safe Distance

With classes online and most of the campus closed, University follows best practices of social distancing during the public health crisis

Posted in: Education, Health

Student in her room videoconferencing over a laptop

After a two-week spring break, students returned  to their studies – solely on their computers. About 6,500 classes went completely online through the end of the semester and the summer sessions, to protect the health and safety of the campus community.

Moving classes online is one form of social distancing — a strategy that public health experts say is the most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 — among others implemented by the University.

Montclair State has also closed most of the campus, except for a few buildings including a small number of residence halls, the health center and dining options for the approximately 450 students who still live on campus.

The term “social distancing” – a rarely used phrase until the coronavirus pandemic began – refers to avoiding close contact with others in order to reduce contagion.

“The University has two critical current objectives. First, to keep our students and employees as safe as possible. Second, to enable our students to complete the academic term,” President Susan A. Cole said.

The social distancing precautions Montclair State has adopted to reduce health risks include:

  • All but essential employees are now working remotely.
  • Offering only take-out options for dining.
  • Canceling all performances, athletics contests, events and student activities. Postponing commencement and convocations. Changing some events to virtual events, like Accepted Students Days, and creating more virtual campus events.

Montclair State Public Health Professor Stephanie Silvera, an epidemiologist who has provided the news media with expert insight into minimizing the spread of COVID-19, said colleges provide complex challenges, especially public universities serving a broad community of students with varying needs.

It is essential to maintain services for students who do not have the ability to leave, while at the same time practicing social distancing to protect health, safety and wellness, she said.

“We’re not really talking about being socially distant, so much as we’re talking about being physically distant,” Silvera explains. “The idea is you want to maintain at least six feet between you and another person in order to reduce your risk of coming in contact with the disease.”

“Staggered work hours, ensuring people are a safe distance apart, and making sure students don’t congregate in dining halls will serve all the constituents of the University, and that means, students, faculty and staff,”  Silvera said.

“These certainly are unusual and difficult times and we will do our best to ensure that students’ needs are met as effectively as possible,” Cole said. “Our efforts may change as the situation evolves and I am extremely grateful to all of the faculty, staff and student employees who are working so hard on this complex effort.”

You can find all University Communications and what students, faculty and staff need to know about the coronavirus on the Montclair State coronavirus website.

Story written by Staff Writer Marilyn Lehren