College's Reopening Plan Includes Testing, Tracing and Plenty of Space

May 4, 2020

Credit Sweet Briar College

Most US colleges and universities are waiting for guidance on how to plan for fall classes amid the pandemic. But one small women’s college in Central Virginia says it’s a unique position to resume in-person instruction. 

Sweet Briar College President Meredith Woo says social distancing won’t be a concern this fall, with 350 students on a 3,200 acre campus. The school also plans to offer single dorm rooms to each student.

President Woo, who unveiled the college's plans in a post to its website last week, says other plans include single dorm rooms for each student, and COVID-19 testing. 

She says Sweet Briar is also in talks with Quest Diagnostics to provide COVID-19 tests of students.

“We can figure out, in fact, how we do the testing, so that we have students already screened before they come back to college, or as they enter as freshmen," she said. "What we do once they are on campus to make sure that there is the right kind of symptom checker that’s the right place that’s continually revised.”

Sweet Briar will do contact tracing of any potential cases of the virus, if need be.  The college's student to faculty ratio is 6 students for each instructor, letting classes remain small when in-student instruction resumes.  Remote classes will continue for those who need them. 

Sweet Briar College President Meredith Woo
Credit Sweet Briar College

“Folks are still kind of paralyzed by this pandemic," Woo said. "But we could be this perfectly, beautifully, controlled experiment in that regard.  And this is what excites a big company like Quest Diagnostics. And we will together figure out how to make it all work.”

Woo also says the college will practice social distancing in preparing student meals, providing farm to table service from its own greenhouse. 

Sweet Briar College is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.