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Students set to return to Hanover next year

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/18/2021 9:21:54 PM
Modified: 3/18/2021 9:33:25 PM

HANOVER — After weathering a COVID-19 outbreak in recent weeks, Dartmouth College is still planning for a normal return to campus of students next school year, college officials said this week.

“We are planning for fall term to be a return to a typical in-person residential term,” Dartmouth Provost Joseph Helble said during a virtual community conversation on Wednesday.

“There are caveats, of course. ... If vaccination progress slows, if case counts substantially increase over spring and summer, or if new variants emerge, we will be guided by the data and we will adjust if and as needed.”

Meanwhile, he said, he expects the upcoming summer term will be “a time of transition” as COVID-19 vaccine distribution continues. Summer term is expected to include a mix of in-person and remote learning.

The in-person activities will be aided by the warmer weather allowing more interactions to take place outside, he said.

For his part, Helble said he looks forward to meeting with his advisees in person.

Dartmouth is seeking to become a point of distribution for vaccines in order to provide doses to employees in an efficient way, Helble said.

The college also is working to determine whether it will be able to vaccinate employees who live in Vermont.

If and once Dartmouth gets approval from New Hampshire, it will be required to abide by the state’s eligibility categories, which currently includes people age 65 and older and those with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness should they contract COVID-19, as well as child care workers and K-12 school employees.

Active cases at the college, which is on spring break, have dipped to eight, following an out break that included a high of about 150 cases earlier this month.

Helble hosted both Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health CEO Joanne Conroy during the virtual conversation.

The two leaders, who both graduated from Dartmouth in 1977, said they expect some employees will continue to work from home some of the time even once the pandemic ends.

“I completely expect that you will see a continuation of more flexible arrangements for working from home, at least part of the time, for many of our employees,” Hanlon said.

In addition, about 2,000 workers who previously worked in person at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in nearby Lebanon will be permanently working remotely, Conroy said.

“I can tell people that parking is a little bit easier here now,” she said. “And we have a lot of extra office space, so we can redeploy it for things that maybe are more clinically priorities for us.”

She also noted that telemedicine is here to stay. Overall, about 20% of D-H patient visits are still done virtually, she said.

“Psychiatry is a perfect example,” she said. “Seventy-seven percent of our behavioral health visits are still done virtually.”

Connecting with patients remotely has reduced the number of appointments patients miss, she said.

Both Helble and Hanlon underscored the mental health challenges members of the Dartmouth community are experiencing amid the ongoing pandemic and the related isolation.

Helble noted that the freshman class has lost two students to sudden deaths this school year. Beau DuBray from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota died unexpectedly on campus in November, and Connor Tiffany from Virginia died on Sunday. He was enrolled in classes, but living out of state.

“These losses only add the feelings of isolation and separation that we’re all experiencing,” Helble said.

He urged community members to reflect on their own mental wellbeing and check in on friends and family members.

Amid the pandemic, Dick’s House, the student health service, has added five new mental health professionals, Hanlon said.

It also has increased online offerings such as meditation, mindfulness and yoga. The college also continues to encourage students to participate in outdoor activities.

“I am asking us all again today to be attentive to one another, to be patient with one another, understanding of one another, and supportive of one another,” Helble said. “This has been an extraordinarily challenging year for so many on every dimension.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com.




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