FARMINGTON — As summer winds down, the University of Maine at Farmington prepares to bring students, staff and faculty back to campus. While the return of students to college is an annual occurrence, this fall semester will be like no other in UMF’s history.

The UMF leadership spent late spring and summer creating, implementing and troubleshooting a plan for the safe and successful resumption of students’ education and experiences. At the forefront of all planning has always been the health and safety of its students, staff, faculty and the local community. As a result, courses at UMF will take many forms, including in-person on campus, remote learning or a hybrid of the two, allowing for flexibility for both students and staff.

The plan is based on four guiding principles that prioritize the University’s strategy, including its commitment to each individual’s health and safety, providing preventative measures against community spread, furthering flexibility to anticipate future challenges and maintaining awareness of the critical role UMF plays in students’ safe return to campus and the Farmington community.

“It’s times like this that show the strength and resilience of our collective community,” said Edward Serna, UMF president. “Each member of the campus community plays a vital role in our ability to minimize risk as we return to campus and move forward in a positive direction. We are proud to be meeting this challenge together, as we have in the past, with persistence and care for each other.”

Under the direction of the State of Maine CDC and with the guidance of the University of Maine System Scientific Advisory Board, safety protocols and COVID-19 testing have been put in place. The University of Maine System entered into an agreement with Convenient MD and the Jackson Laboratories to conduct an asymptomatic testing program in the UMF community as one part of its comprehensive Safe Return to Campus efforts.

Testing will be conducted of all students living in residence halls; student-athletes; and any commuter student, faculty or staff member who has been out of Maine within 14 days before coming to campus.

Asymptomatic testing refers to the testing of people who are not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19.  It is designed as a preventative measure, as people may carry and pass on the virus without even knowing they have the virus. 

Tests will be administered according to a coordinated plan as the UMF community returns to campus. Students will begin to return to campus for move-in and COVID-19 testing according to a staggered schedule beginning Tuesday, Aug. 11 for returning community assistants, staff and faculty. Future testing dates will include Aug. 18 for new students, Aug. 24 for returning students and Sept. 1 for anyone who couldn’t make the previous dates.

In addition, members of the UMF community will be required to wear an appropriate face covering and socially distance themselves on campus at all times. Residence halls, classrooms, dining services and other campus spaces have been modified over the summer for social distancing and upgraded with enhanced technology to help facilitate remote learning.

Upon returning to campus, UMF students will show their commitment to their personal health and safety and that of the health of their community by holding themselves accountable to diligently follow all safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus and be mindful of others —

“The campus community is intertwined with Farmington, and so when any of us wear a mask and practice social distancing, we are protecting ourselves and others,” said Christine Wilson, UMF vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. “Even though Farmington is in a rural area of Maine, and the virus has not spread widely in our community, we must be vigilant. The University takes great pride in being part of the Farmington community. We are all partners in keeping each other safe.”