As campus leaders mull reopening scenarios, many parents are hoping their students can go back to campus this fall despite concerns about COVID-19

Back to campus in the fall?


As campus leaders mull reopening scenarios, many parents are hoping their students can go back to campus this fall despite concerns about COVID-19

Nearly 8 percent of parents (7.9 percent) say they don’t believe social distancing will be necessary in the fall, 5.2 percent believe online learning should continue until 20201, and 6.7 percent say they’re comfortable with their children returning, but a physical return to campus should be voluntary.

Responses from parents at a few colleges stood out in how they different from overall parent responses, according to a blog post dissecting the survey.

More than half of the University of Mississippi parents surveyed say social distancing won’t be needed this fall–58.3 percent, compared to 7.9 percent of all respondents.

By contrast, 16.9 percent of parents at Cornell University say online learning should continue through 2021–much higher than the 5.2 percent of total respondents who said the same.

Parents of University of Michigan-Ann Arbor say returning to classes on campus should be voluntary–18.9 percent compared to 6.7 percent of all respondents.

What, exactly will social distancing look like on campuses? Aside from hand washing, face masks, and hand sanitizer, there are a number of different scenarios, many of which focus on reducing the number of people on campus.

Lecture hall classes may remain online, while classes with in-person needs such as labs, studio classes, or those requiring equipment would occur on campus. In another scenario, only certain groups of students, such as freshman or seniors, might be present on campus for classes.

Models that predict what campuses may look like without social distancing, such as one laid out by former Yale University president Richard Levin, paint an alarming picture.

If 1,000 students arrive on campus in the fall and one has COVID-19, 85 percent of students will have become infected before December 18 if there is no social distancing and assuming students have no immunity.

But with social distancing practiced 50 percent of the time, only 0.9 percent of the population will be infected by that same time. If social distancing is practiced 60 percent of the time, the infection rate drops to 0.2 percent in four months.

Laura Ascione