GRAND RAPIDS — Calvin University, a Grand Rapids-based school with about 3,600 students, is expected to become the first college or university in Michigan, and probably the first in the nation, to stockpile coronavirus tests with the intention of reopening this fall for in-person instruction.
The private Christian college is among several Michigan universities preparing to reopen for in-person instruction this fall, although others have said they will only offer online classes. Calvin is expected to test all students arriving on campus through a partnership with Helix Diagnostics, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press, and will likely have tests left over from a stockpile of about 5,000 total.
“We’re trying to anticipate what will help us get started in the healthiest and safest way,” Calvin President Michael Le Roy said on Thursday. “Without the tests, we are relying on symptoms. It would have left us in a position where we were mostly reactive. We would have been where we were in March. This allows us to be proactive.”
Calvin is one of a growing number of colleges and universities, private and public, across the state that have announced plans to resume operations on campus this fall after going online-only for much of the spring semester.
Face-to-face instruction will be resumed and modified for social distancing.
Testing will begin with essential employees and will be used throughout the year if students exhibit any symptoms.
“I think it shows Calvin’s leadership in this area to be at the front of this challenge on how to get back to normalcy,” said Brian Tierney, president of Helix Diagnostics, in a statement announcing the partnership. “They have taken this seriously on how they can get their students back to campus and provide them the best care that’s out there. I’ve talked with a lot of other schools and I am impressed with both the depth and how far along Calvin is in their plan for opening. They are doing everything they can to ensure that the students are in a safe environment.”
The university’s size is a strength in dealing with a pandemic, according to Le Roy.
“The anonymity factor is very small in our communities,” he said. “Organizationally, our schools are able to adapt and turn quickly. We’re small enough to contain an outbreak.
Other universities expected to reopen this fall for in-person classes are Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University and Grand Valley State University. Henry Ford Community College of Dearborn has not released a statement on its website, although it is currently enrolling students for the fall semester.
Michigan State University and Wayne State University are expected to continue online classes only in the fall, while University of Michigan president Mark Schlissel said he remains hopeful that in-person classes could resume.