The following is from an email to the COA community from COA President Darron Collins ’92.

I am writing today to share some of the latest details of our plan to safely reopen the College of the Atlantic campus this fall, and to invite you to attend an online information and Q&A session with members of the COA COVID-19 Response Team next week to talk about these details and other questions you might have.

As many of you know, efforts to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19 are centered largely on several elements: social and mechanical protocols (physical distancing, wearing face coverings, hand washing, plexiglass barriers, air handling), regular testing, and contact tracing. These elements will prove essential to successfully reopening schools and workplaces nationwide, and to our success this fall at COA.

We have spoken before about our existing and planned social and mechanical protocols on campus, and are moving forward and preparing with those in mind, both in and out of the classroom. Today I want to focus on the testing front: COA has contracted with Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for COVID-19 antigen testing to be administered on campus. All students, staff, and faculty who plan to be on campus will be required to take part in a baseline testing series at the The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has partnered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and s...The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has partnered with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and scores of colleges and universities across New England to perform COVID-19 antigen testing.beginning of the term, followed by weekly surveillance testing of a percentage of the campus community throughout the term. We believe that this testing plan, combined with proper social and mechanical protocols, will go a long way toward helping us maintain a safe, healthy, and productive environment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Testing everyone upon arrival also allows us to reduce the amount of quarantine time at the beginning of the term, which is very positive news.

Broad Institute was launched in 2004 to improve human health by using genomics to advance understanding of the biology and treatment of human disease, and to help lay the groundwork for a new generation of therapies. Broad has been partnering with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on testing since March, and they were recommended to us by our partners at the Jackson Laboratories. COA will join scores of colleges and universities across New England in contracting for testing through the Broad Clinical Research Sequencing Platform. The tests are polymerase chain reaction, shallow nasal swabs that will be self-administered on campus, under supervision, and analyzed at the Broad labs in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Results will be available within 24 hours of tests being received at the lab.

The subject of testing leads to many questions, including what we will do when a member of the campus community tests positive or becomes sick with coronavirus. We have many protocols that are being finalized that will make use of isolation, quarantines, and retesting in order to keep the spread to a minimum. We are working with local medical practitioners to make sure that anyone who tests positive receives appropriate treatment, and we are exploring additional local partnerships to secure off-campus isolation spaces for those with positive tests. We will be partnering with the Maine State Department of Health for managing the contact tracing process, as well as doing our own monitoring as to how and when to create preventative quarantines within our community as needed, and we will continue working with the Jackson Laboratory, the MDI Biological Laboratory, and the Mount Desert Island Hospital to respond appropriately to illness in our community.

“COA will continue to be a place where we hold care and compassion for one another as central values of our community.”

College of the Atlantic campus will certainly look different this fall from what many of us are used to. Life as a COA community member in the time of a pandemic will involve new ways of interacting, new ways of taking classes, alternative access to campus services and food, and new rhythms as we adapt to social protocols, testing, and distancing to slow the spread of the virus. But I want to be clear: COA will continue to be a place where engagement with each other is central to our academics and our community, where we hold care and compassion for one another as central values of our community, and where we breathe deeply of the spirit of inquiry and seek for an ever more balanced and humanizing human ecology. We are moving through historic times, and we will do so together.

The COVID-19 response team has been working throughout the summer to examine many aspects of campus life and put into place practices that will help keep all members of our community healthy and safe. Staff and faculty are currently returning to campus under our summer reopening plan, and the team is hard at work on a comprehensive fall reopening plan, which we plan to finalize and distribute by early August. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that our best-laid plans could be preempted by restrictions imposed on us by the State of Maine, or recommended by the scientific community, if coronavirus infections were to begin to rise regionally. And, as we have seen recently, new guidance from the Federal government could impact many members of our international community. We are tracking these situations closely, adapting our plans, and continuing to work in concert with regional and professional partners to make sure that our reopening plans are making the best use of the most current information available.

Next week, we will hold several one-hour, online sessions via Zoom so we can go into further detail on our plans and try to answer what questions you may have. Members of our COVID-19 Response Team, including leaders from student life and academics, will be present in each session. If you cannot attend a meeting but have questions you’d like to ask, or just want to talk about the fall, please be in touch with COA Dean of Student Life Sarah Luke at so we can accommodate your needs. Check your email for the meeting schedule.

Despite the challenges ahead, I am looking forward to this historic fall term. The COA community is nothing if not resilient, creative, and adaptable, and I truly believe that we can do this together and do it right. I’m grateful for the hard work and planning of our staff and faculty this summer, and to all of our students – you’ve been patient, inquisitive, and involved as we’ve moved through a very different spring and into summer, and I know you will continue to be so as we move into the fall.

As always, please check in with our COVID-19 info page for all of the latest updates.

Darron Collins ’92