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Northeastern plans to reopen for fall — with measures to protect against coronavirus

Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun.
Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun.Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

The president of Northeastern University is planning for students to return to campus in the fall, after the coronavirus pandemic led him to move classes online in March, but the school will enact a range of new policies to help protect students and faculty from the virus, he said Friday.

Joseph E. Aoun said the use of classrooms, dormitories, dining halls, athletic facilities, and other locations on campus will have to be reconsidered to allow for students to socially distance and potentially self-quarantine.

“To put things in very clear terms: It is our intention to reopen our campuses this fall and offer on-site instruction and a residential experience for our students,” he said in a message to the campus community. “This is a highly complex endeavor; in fact, even more complicated than the move to remote learning and working we accomplished in March.”

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Students and faculty can expect widespread use of face masks, staggered business hours, enhanced cleaning procedures, large-scale contact tracing for the virus, and using an app to check into campus buildings, Aoun said.

Many large lectures will be recorded as well as offered live, and some classes will allow for students outside the classroom to participate remotely, Aoun said. Student housing will grow to include new buildings so students have more distance between them, and space may be set aside for students “who will need to safely self-isolate,” he said.

Administrative offices and research labs are likely to open before the fall, beginning with the return of faculty and staff who need campus facilities to do their work, Aoun said. They will return to campus gradually “and in accordance with public health guidance,” he said.

“In the near term, employees will maintain the ability to choose whether or not to come to campus,” Aoun said. “We must be mindful of pre-existing health conditions, lack of available child care, and concerns about public transportation.”

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Some Northeastern facilities in Boston could begin to reopen later this month, he said, while other locations will open later in a “phased process” that can be sped or slowed based on current conditions.

'The current crisis presents an opportunity for us to reimagine how we live, work, and learn," Aoun said. “By continuing to rely on our agility and ingenuity, I am confident that our university — and our community — will emerge stronger and even better prepared to address the world’s grand challenges.”



Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.