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Dartmouth plans for students to return in shifts

  • John Mahan, of Mahan Slate Roofing, right, and John Lavoie, of Miller Crane, guide the 600-pound copper weather vane removed from atop the Baker Library tower in Hanover on June 25. Dartmouth College officials agreed to remove the 1928 sculpture after Native American students and professors said it depicted racist stereotypes. Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said the weather vane will ultimately be transferred to the college’s Hood Museum of Art “for storage there.” Geoff Hansen / Valley News

Valley News
Published: 6/26/2020 6:31:57 PM

Dartmouth College undergraduates each are likely to be invited back to campus for two of the school’s four terms next school year, the college’s provost told viewers of an online town hall this week.

First-year students are expected to come to campus for the same two terms in order to help them build a sense of community, and other students will have some say in which terms they are in residence, Provost Joseph Helble said during the Dartmouth town hall forum on Wednesday.

Factors the school will take into account will include academic needs and ability to travel, as well as financial and situational factors such as a student’s home environment.

“We anticipate and fully expect that all Dartmouth undergraduate students will have the opportunity to be here residentially for part of their education in the upcoming academic year, but they will not all be able to be here on campus at exactly the same time,” Helble said.

As COVID-19 hit the Upper Valley in mid-March, Dartmouth suspended in-person classes for spring term and sent most students home. Summer term courses also are being taught online. The college hasn’t charged students for room and board for the spring and summer terms, but it is charging the full tuition rate. The college faces a lawsuit from a student’s father over the decision to maintain tuition rates despite the move to online classes. Annual tuition at Dartmouth for students without financial aid is $57,796.

Dartmouth’s reopening plan relies on testing of all returning students to be conducted by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, as well as contact tracing, limiting the size of social and academic gatherings, mask-wearing requirements and a reduction in the density of residential spaces, Helble said.

Most students will be assigned to either single-room dormitories or two-room doubles, which would give students their own bedrooms. This additional space is needed both for reducing the spread of coronavirus and for allowing students to complete their coursework, at least some of which will still be online.

The school is slated to issue a full announcement on Monday outlining its plans for how it will operate during the 2020-21 school year in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Monday. Plans for when and how the school will resume athletics hinge on an announcement expected next month from the Ivy League, Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson said during Wednesday’s town hall.

“From the outset, President (Phil) Hanlon and I have stressed our goal of supporting the maximum number of students we can return to campus guided first and foremost, by the application of appropriate public health standards,” Helble said. “Community health, our students, our faculty, our staff, and the broader Upper Valley community is at the forefront of our minds in our decision making.”

He noted that he and other Dartmouth leaders are keeping a close eye on infection rates across the country. As conditions change, the college’s plans for next year could also, he said.

The current plans would require students returning to campus to be tested upon arrival and again shortly thereafter. The goal is the see how prevalent the disease is at the outset and how the college could contain it, with methods including quarantining and contact tracing, he said. Additional surveillance testing of students, faculty and staff is expected to take place throughout the fall term.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock will conduct the testing using nasopharyngeal swabs, said D-H CEO Joanne Conroy, a 1977 Dartmouth graduate who also participated in Wednesday’s online town hall. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center currently has the capacity to conduct 1,000 such tests per day and aims to soon expand that number to 1,500, she said. Results are available within 24 hours.

Once people have their results, they “can enter into either quarantine or go about their business with the knowledge that at least at that moment in time they were negative,” Conroy said.

Because the test is a “snapshot” of a person’s infection status at one point in time, she said further monitoring will need to be done. One way of doing that may be by testing the wastewater from student residence halls.

“We know that the virus is actually excreted in the stool five to seven days before people have symptoms,” Conroy said.

D-H officials are working with Dartmouth, as well as with Lebanon and Hanover, to determine how to monitor wastewater for signs of the new coronavirus, she said.

“People are really excited about it,” she said. “They’ve been doing it in Europe for a long time, and it’s just something we’re integrating into a level of surveillance here.”

Conroy said that there is a “very, very low” prevalence of the disease in the state, with only about 2.5% of people who were recently tested being found to have COVID-19. Just 1.4% of the 5,598 confirmed cases in New Hampshire are in Grafton County, according to data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. In order to manage the spread of the virus in the Upper Valley, officials will be focused on managing symptoms, aggressive testing, contact tracing and quarantining infected people, she said.

“And as long as you’re really aggressive about doing those basic public health approaches to keeping the community safe, we believe we can actually contain this,” she said.

Although students are not studying in Hanover this summer, there was some significant activity on campus early Thursday morning. Workers using a crane removed a weather vane erected in 1928 from atop the Baker Library tower.

Dartmouth early last week said it would take down and replace the 600-pound copper weather vane after Native American students and professors said it depicted racist stereotypes.

Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said the weather vane will ultimately be transferred to the college’s Hood Museum of Art “for storage there.”

The college has also created a working group to examine other iconography around campus and to consider what would replace the weather vane.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727- 3213. These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit

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