The Star-Herald

UMaine System chancellor visits UMPI, praises COVID-19 prevention efforts

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy had positive things to say about the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic during a recent visit to the campus.

Malloy and his chief of staff Jim Thelan toured the UMPI campus on Wednesday, Sept. 23, with president Ray Rice, associate dean of students Sarah Coyer and director of facilities management Joe Moir. The group discussed the various adjustments UMPI has made to accommodate distance learning, social distancing and other prevention measures.

Thus far UMPI has not recorded any positive COVID-19 test results. All out-of-state and residence hall students received several rounds of tests upon returning to campus and even quarantined for 14 days before traveling to Presque Isle to ensure prevention of the virus’ spread.

The UMaine System has confirmed 13 positive test results since the beginning of the fall semester, with only one of those cases active. 

Rice noted several factors that have so far worked in UMPI’s favor, including Aroostook County’s low count of confirmed COVID-19 cases, the combination of in-person and online instruction and students and staff members’ willingness to follow social distancing measures.

UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy, right, speaks with UMPI President Ray Rice, center, and UMPI director of facilities management Joe Moir during a tour of campus. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy (right) speaks with Barbara Blackstone, dean of UMPI’s College of Professional Programs and College of Education, during a tour of UMPI’s new nursing laboratory. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

“I couldn’t be more pleased with how supportive everyone has been,” Rice said. “We’ve been fortunate to be able to make adjustments as various needs come up.”

Many faculty members are teaching hybrid courses this fall, with some students in the classroom and others appearing virtually through Zoom. Around 60 percent of all courses are being held through distance learning technologies while 40 percent are primarily in-person.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Rice said that UMPI’s fall enrollment has increased by 10 percent compared to fall 2019, with increases in out-of-state and Maine students. The campus has also seen a 17 percent increase in the total amount of credit hours being taken by students, which indicates that more students have enrolled full time.

“It’s remarkable to say that in the middle of a pandemic. We’ve been lucky compared to other campuses across the country,” Rice said, referring to campuses that are facing COVID-19 outbreaks and resulting shutdowns.

Malloy also visited the University of Maine at Fort Kent this week and plans to visit the four remaining UMaine System campuses as part of his “Keep It Up” tour. His goal is to encourage university students and staff members to “keep up” the work that has prevented large COVID-19 outbreaks and receive updates on each campus’ challenges and successes.

At UMPI, Malloy stopped by several classes and toured the newly built nursing laboratory. He praised UMPI’s efforts to prevent COVID-19, which include traffic arrows outside and inside buildings and classrooms with desks spaced apart.

“UMPI has done an exceptional job. I’m grateful for all that the students, faculty and staff have [done and] helped us be in a much more fortunate situation than many other college systems,” Malloy said.

UMPI will continue to offer in-person and hybrid classes until Thanksgiving break, after which students will complete the semester virtually.

 

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