STANDISH — Saint Joseph’s College of Maine is relying on a lot of work it’s doing this summer and the trust it has in its students for a successful in-person reopening in August.

“We are spending the summer getting campus ready to live and learn in the COVID-19 era. So that means that we are doing some pretty intensive scenario planning every day, all summer, and that is led by our leadership team but supported by the pandemic response team,” said Oliver Griswold, head of brand and marketing for the college.

Approximately 1,000 students are enrolled in Saint Joseph’s traditional undergraduate program and about 2,500 are enrolled in online programs. Chief Student Affairs Officer Matthew Goodwin said that enrollment numbers are constantly changing, but anecdotally he knows that numbers are up from last year. Fall classes begin Aug. 24.

Thirty students are on campus now for summer programs that began June 15.

The college closed all its residential living and switched to a virtual learning model on March 13. In a statement from the college, officials wrote, “we did, and continue to incur expenses as a result of COVID-19, as did our students and their families.”

“The CARES Act funding for higher education was formula-driven and weighted toward Pell-eligible students and those with significant financial needs. In addition to our room and board reimbursement, roughly $325,000 that we received from CARES Act funding is already going directly to students to be used as a reimbursement of expenses they incurred due to the pandemic.”


Goodwin confirmed that to date, the college has rebated $1.1 million in room and board fees to students.

Soon after the residential program shut down, the college formed a “Pandemic Response Team,” and a “Contingency Task Force” to prepare for students’ return this fall.

“Between those two teams, we’ve been able to craft a comprehensive response for how we think we can do this and do it in a way that is distinctly St. Joe’s (but) also (a) safe response to a constantly changing environment,” said Goodwin.

“I can’t accurately communicate how much work has gone into reopening the college,” Goodwin said.

Students enrolled in the fall semester will move into dorms on a staggered schedule the week before the start of classes.

Classrooms will have fewer seats, Griswold said, and the dining hall will have extended hours and increased take out options.


Everyone on campus is required to wear a mask in any indoor environment. Goodwin said they have no evidence to suggest any students, faculty or staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

The college is also moving to a hybrid/flexibility learning system. Students will choose whether they want to learn in the classroom or virtually from their dorm or other campus area by watching a livestream of a lecture or a recorded video. Griswold said this is “kind of an extension of our learner-center environment … (you) choose the kind of learning that makes you feel comfortable.”

Residential life should continue as usual, but the college is increasing the cleaning and disinfecting of dorms and common spaces, and asking that students honor the mask requirement when they’re in another student’s room.

“There’s a lot of trust built into the reopening plans,” Griswold said. “We think that our community is small enough (for) that. Housing is part of that, (and it’s) essential that everybody honors the community and do what needs to be done inside housing.”

The college is also reserving a dorm as an extended health center to quarantine students if they begin to feel ill or test positive for the coronavirus.

The college is still developing its plan for testing and is waiting for recommendations from the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how much testing is necessary and appropriate, Griswold said.


Student Ricky Reyes, 18, remained on campus for the entire spring semester after the change was made to distance learning. He continued to work for the admissions office while attending classes, and returned before home to Worcester, Massachusetts after his exams in May.

Reyes said he’s looking forward to returning to campus for his sophomore year and begin his training to become a residence hall assistant. A member of the cross country and track teams, he said he’s excited to compete again after the spring sports season was canceled.

The Great Northeast Athletic Conference, which Saint Joseph’s competes in, has not yet announced plans for fall sports.

Safa Al-Kinani, 21,  a medical biology major who will be starting her senior year in the fall, also said she’s excited to return to campus.

Al-Kinani is from Westbrook and said that she could commute, but will be on campus to serve as a residential assistant and a peer academic leader. She also works in the cafeteria, where she said she knows many changes are being made.

“I want to go back to campus. I didn’t like online. I also understand you have to be cautious. However, I don’t feel unsafe going back with all of what I’ve heard about the prep,” she said.

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