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Colleges urge students to take precautions seriously after large gatherings

August 29, 2020

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DURHAM, N.H. — New Hampshire colleges and universities are urging students to take COVID-19 precautions seriously as the school year begins.

Since school started, the University of New Hampshire has been dealing with large group gatherings. Two photos taken Wednesday night at UNH show large crowds of students.

Dean of students Ken Holmes said the pictures were taken after a socially distanced event hosted by the school.

“As folks were leaving their individual firepits and enjoying ice cream and conversation, they started to come together,” he said. “Staff worked fast to disperse it quickly.”

But he said UNH has had a problem with a large gathering off campus.

“If we keep having events where people are not socially distancing, we are going to have a problem,” Holmes said.

Gov. Chris Sununu addressed those issues Thursday.

“We want to encourage folks and remind them it’s easy to just start lingering around, and the next thing you know, you’re in a crowd,” Sununu said. “You have to be cognizant.”

At New England College, a letter was sent about students hanging out together near Hall Avenue.

“Students who we know were there or at any gathering will receive a warning, and if it happens a second time, they will not be back on campus,” said Michele Perkins, president of NEC.

Two students were sent home to work remotely because they invited a relative onto campus, which is not allowed, Perkins said.

She said the school has also been dealing with students not wearing masks. More than a dozen warnings have been given out.

“A second infraction would lead to a dismissal from campus and a transition to remote learning,” she said.

College officials said students need to take their responsibilities and roles in the pandemic seriously so everyone can stay on campus.

Several New Hampshire colleges and universities to begin fall semester Monday

August 24, 2020

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MANCHESTER, N.H. — Several New Hampshire colleges and universities are beginning their fall semesters on Monday, but with changes as they deal with the impact of COVID-19.

New England College, Plymouth State University and Keene State College will all begin classes on Monday in some form. Whether online, in-person or hybrid models.

New England College President Dr. Michele Perkins said there have been 5 positive cases so far, 4 in Henniker and one involving a commuter student in Manchester. One case was symptomatic; that student has left campus. Two other people who tested positive have gone home and one person is quarantining.

“We required students to be tested before arrival and then tested immediately upon arrival which was good because we have a couple of positive cases, as you know,” Perkins said. “We plan to test again in two weeks and we also plan on acquiring the fast test equipment that will be available in September.”

The college has has a contract with Convenient MD.

Perkins said there will be no more than 10 students per classroom with social distancing, masks and barriers. They have asked everyone on campus to take protocols seriously.

“We made it very clear that if you break what we call the Pilgrim Promise, you’re going home,” Perkins said. “We are sending out regular messaging to both reassure the community but also remind everyone and it’s not just students, it’s everyone who is allowed on campus.”

Hundreds of students to return to New England College in two weeks amid many changes

August 17, 2020

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More than 900 students will be showing up in Henniker in less than two weeks as New England College prepares for life in the COVID era, but the campus and town will see plenty of changes from years past and there’s no guarantee the situation won’t change further.

College President Michele Perkins said a sudden worsening of the pandemic or a cluster of cases could empty the campus in the center of Henniker, similar to last March when stay-at-home orders were imposed around the country.

“There’s no one tipping point” that would cause New England College to send students and staff home again, Perkins said.

“If there’s a surge in New Hampshire, or if suddenly 20 people (on campus) come down with it; we would get together as the administration and say: ‘Here’s the situation, do we make the decision?’” Perkins said.

Classes start Aug. 24. The traditional Move-In Day is being spread out over six days in Henniker and two days in Manchester at the former New Hampshire Institute of Art to allow social distancing.

Except for Southern New Hampshire University, long a national leader in online classes, it appears that all colleges and universities in New Hampshire will have most of their students on campus this fall.

As with secondary and elementary schools, this decision has produced considerable debate and masks are a big part of the discussion.

Mask mandate

New England College is requiring students and faculty to wear masks but the town of Henniker has no mandate: The board of selectmen voted 3-2 on Monday not to pursue a possible ordinance mandating masks in town, bucking a trend in state towns that have colleges or universities.

“Most of the mask ordinances that have been passed are in college towns – Durham, Hanover, Keene, Plymouth,” said Town Administrator Joe Devine.

Devine said that a long meeting Monday over the Zoom video platform between town officials, residents and New England College officials answered many questions.

“I think (New England College) developed a great plan; they have taken care of any consideration,” Devine said, noting frequent communication between the school and town services.  “The townspeople are having concern with students who live in off-campus housing. How is NEC going to deal with that, how is town going to deal with that? … Who is going to enforce it?”

Roughly 200 NEC students are expected to be living in apartments in and around Henniker.

Devine pointed out that Henniker’s control over the college is limited. 

“The town has no jurisdiction over their campus. We rely on that partnership to ensure that NEC is making plans. … We can’t make them do something, say, ‘Hey, you have to do this.’ It’s private property.”

New England College’s notice to returning students tells them “Masks must be worn at all times properly covering your mouth and your nose” except when they are in their rooms, when using the bathroom or eating. “Masks are strongly encouraged while outside and must be worn if the student is not alone.”

The rule is one of dozens being implemented for the new school year. Along with cleaning and social-distancing rules, topics range from class layout – no more than 10 students per class, no food, professors are behind transparent panels and “seating may not be moved” – to strict limits on visitors to preparations if a student gets COVID-19.

“We’ve taken a few of smaller residence halls offline and are holding those for potential quarantine space if needed,” Perkins said.

‘Smart’ thermometers

The college has contracted with ConvenientMD to do testing, and will be giving out “smart thermometers” that students will use, twice a day, to take their temperature and upload it in an app. This data will be compiled as an early warning system of a possible COVID-19 outbreak, Perkins said.

“Let’s say in a residence hall suddenly 15 people have elevated temperatures, we’ll have real-time feedback on that and can respond,” she said.

As with most colleges, sports aren’t happening, nor are other public activities open to the community, such as plays, lectures or art exhibits.

The college expects 942 students in Henniker, about 740 of whom will be living on campus and most of the remainder living in apartments around town, plus 212 in Manchester.

That does not include a couple thousand more graduate and online-only students who are not on campus.

“We planned for 10 to 20% fewer traditional residential undergrads (on the main campus) and it looks like that’s about where it’s going to go,” said Perkins. The decline in enrollment will probably be somewhat larger at the Manchester campus.

“Some (students) have petitioned to study remotely, and some faculty will need to teach remotely because of pre-existing conditions,” Perkins said.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

UNH hopes to have in-house COVID-19 testing lab ready within weeks

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A coronavirus testing lab that produces results in 12 hours is expected to open at the University of New Hampshire in a few weeks, a school official said Monday.

USNH Chancellor Todd Leach made the announcement during a Zoom discussion hosted by U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan. The online discussion included presidents and heads from the community college system and private colleges in New Hampshire.

The move-in process, with students returning to many of the campuses this week, has gone well so far, school officials reported.

“It’s looking good so far and we hope we will be able to maintain our good health among our community,” said New England College President Michelle Perkins. “We’ve had everyone tested thus far and so far everyone’s come back negative.”

Leach said students attending public colleges and universities are required to get tested for COVID-19 before arriving on campus. They will also be tested upon arrival and then again two weeks after they arrive, Leach said.

According to Leach, the new lab at UNH is expected to be able to process thousands of samples a day, from the UNH campus in Durham as well as Keene State College and Plymouth State University.

“No matter how busy things get around the country, we’ll have a turnaround time that’s fairly tight,” Leach told Hassan and others on Monday.

Susan Huard, interim chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, said because fewer students live on campus at community colleges, the focus at these schools tends to be aimed more at making sure there are adequate supplies of personal protective equipment on hand, with less of an emphasis on testing.

“Our average student is 26, and she has children,” said Huard, adding many students are also essential workers. “We’ve got mom, or dad, sitting at the kitchen table trying to fit the children’s education in with their own education, while they work as a LNA (licensed nursing assistant) or in the restaurant industry. We have to think in terms of how we keep them safe on campus while they’re coming in and out of the community.”

“We are, I hope, going to negotiate our next relief package for COVID relief and make sure we are addressing your needs in that package,” Hassan told college presidents in a roundtable discussion Monday.

“Personal protective equipment, masks, thermometers and kiosks, testing, tracing and the staff to do all of this,” said Perkins. “We have put in place more digital and online components.”

Kim Mooney, president of Franklin Pierce University, said she wonders what role higher education will play when a vaccine is developed.

“So many of our students won’t be able to go home either because they are international students or because they are safer here in New Hampshire on our campuses,” said Mooney.

Hassan told university and college officials she’s concerned Congress hasn’t reached an agreement on a second round of coronavirus relief aid.

NH college presidents say flexible aid needed as campuses reopen

Posted in NEC In the News
 
U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, is hearing about the financial challenges New Hampshire’s university and college systems are facing as they welcome back students and staff.

 

Officials with colleges and universities in the Granite State said they have been preparing to reopen for months, and for many, it has come at a cost.

“We are, I hope, going to negotiate our next relief package for COVID relief and make sure we are addressing your needs in that package,” Hassan said told college presidents in a roundtable discussion Monday.

Michele Perkins, president of New England College, said in-person learning is about to start with precautions in place.

“Personal protective equipment, masks, thermometers and kiosks, testing, tracing and the staff to do all of this,” she said. “We have put in place more digital and online components.”

Perkins said everything has taken a financial toll, and the school is also increasing financial aid.

“There are families that are incredibly challenged financially during the COVID crisis,” she said.

In the state university system, University System of New Hampshire President Todd Leach said UNH is investing in a COVID-19 testing lab.

“We can entirely control the turnaround time, and we are looking at somewhere around 12 hours,” he said.

Kim Mooney, president of Franklin Pierce University, said federal funds could also help with the role higher education could play when a vaccine is developed.

“So many of our students won’t be able to go home either because they are international students or because they are safer here in New Hampshire on our campuses,” Mooney said.

School leaders said they need federal funding to be flexible as additional challenges come up.

Kuster Holds Virtual Roundtable with Higher Education Leaders

August 14, 2020

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Hopkinton, NH – Today, Representative Annie Kuster (NH-02) held a virtual roundtable with New Hampshire college and university presidents to discuss campus testing strategies for COVID-19 and plans for reopening institutions for the upcoming fall semester. Kuster voted in favor of the HEROES Act, which passed the House nearly three months ago and includes $27 billion in aid for colleges and universities, as well as $4 billion for states to distribute to K-12 schools and higher education institutions. 

“As students return to campuses across New Hampshire and around the country, much uncertainty remains about what this semester will look like and how students can learn while staying safe during the pandemic,” said Kuster. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to hear from leaders at our state’s higher education institutions about the steps they are taking to protect students, faculty, and staff as they work to provide students with the best education possible in these difficult circumstances. While Congress has provided COVID-19 relief funding for educational institutions, we must do more. I look forward to sharing these valuable insights with my colleagues as we continue working to support schools and our nation’s academic sector during this public health emergency.” 

“The higher education community in New Hampshire appreciates Congresswoman Kuster’s support as we plan to re-open our campuses amidst a pandemic,” said Dr. Michele Perkins, President of New England College and Chairperson of the NH College and University Council.  “We remain committed to providing quality education that drives NH’s economy, advances technology, and prepares students for life after COVID-19.”

During the discussion, Kuster heard from:

  • Debby Scire, President and CEO of NH College and University Council (NHCUC)
  • Joseph Favazza, President of St. Anselm College
  • Dr. Michele Perkins, President of New England College and NHCUC Chairperson
  • Dr. Kim Mooney, President of Franklin Pierce University
  • Sister Paula Marie Buley, IHM, President of Rivier University
  • Dr. Susan Huard, Interim Chancellor for Community College System of New Hampshire
  • Susan Stuebner, President and Professor of Social Sciences and Education at Colby-Sawyer College
  • Todd Leach, Ph.D., Chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire 
  • Donald Birx, Ph.D., President of Plymouth State University
  • James Dean, President of the University of New Hampshire 
  • Dr. Shawn Fitzgerald, Provost and CEO, Antioch University 

In April, Kuster unveiled her “Roadmap to Recovery” agenda, which details the necessity for robust plans for testing, tracing, and isolation as part of reopening and our economic recovery. A number of provisions from the agenda were included in the HEROES Act.

NEC in the News: WMUR9 published “NH Colleges Consider Moving Classes Online to Prevent Spread of COVID-19”

March 16, 2020

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NEC in the News: WMUR9 published NH Colleges Consider Moving Classes Online to Prevent Spread of COVID-19

March 10, 2020

Officials say they want plans in place if situation worsens

“Some colleges in New Hampshire are considering switching to online classes to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19.

Harvard University officials announced that students would take classes online after spring break. Officials at New England College said they were talking with students and staff about possible transitioning to online classes, as well.”

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NEC in the News: UB University Business® published “Enhancing Mission, Vision, Reach and Impact—through Mergers”

February 14, 2020

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NEC in the News: UB University Business® published “Enhancing Mission, Vision, Reach and Impact—through Mergers”

Feb 11, 2020

For these two small higher ed institutions in New Hampshire, the synergy was clear and the outcomes positive
By: President Michele D. Perkins, EdD

New England College’s fifteenth President, Dr. Michele Perkins, EdD

New England College’s President, Dr. Michele Perkins, EdD

“The news today is filled with stories of colleges exploring mergers and acquisitions. Reasons vary: Some colleges seek to shore up finances, build their reputation or grow enrollment. Others, including my institution, New England College, view mergers as a proactive strategy—an effective way to enhance mission, vision, reach and impact.”

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NEC in the News: The Concord Monitor published NEC’s Esports Program Charges Along, Full of Diversity, Technology – and Good Chairs

December 3, 2019

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NEC in the News: The Concord Monitor published “NEC’s Esports Program Charges Along, Full of Diversity, Technology – and Good Chairs”

Dec 1, 2019

“Esports is the general term for multiplayer online game competitions, which are a multi-billion-dollar business worldwide. New England College is one of several schools in the region that have started up esports teams and clubs, seeing it as a way to lure students in an increasingly tight market and a way to provide new levels of experience and education for the always-online generation…

NEC’s esports push drew attention a year ago when they hired Tyrelle Appleton, 26, to coach the esports teams and launch the program. The school now has teams and club groups playing science-fiction and superhero-related games like Fortnite, Overwatch, League of Legends and Super Smash Brothers, plus ever-more-realistic reenactments of physical sports through games like Madden NFL and NBA.” Read the whole article.

Learn more about NEC esports.

NEC in the News: Business NH Magazine published “NH Schools in Top 25 for Forensic Accounting”

November 22, 2019

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NEC in the News: Business NH Magazine published “NH Schools in Top 25 for Forensic Accounting”

Nov 21, 2019

Best Master’s Programs (BMP), an online guide, named New England College in Henniker among its 25 Best Master’s in Forensic Accounting Programs for 2020.

“The BMP ranking of the top Forensic Accounting Master’s programs is meant to help working accountants and career-changing adults find a program with a real return on investment and career impact.”

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