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RISD Prepares For “Near Normal” Fall Semester

RISD Prepares for “Near Normal” Fall Semester

With a community-wide vaccination rate surpassing 90 percent, returning students can expect in-person studio and extra-curricular experiences come September.

view of RISD campus looking south

photo by George Gray

Interim President Dave Proulx announced on Wednesday, August 11, that campus will reopen for the fall 2021 semester with the reduced “Near Normal” COVID protocols proposed last spring. With more than 86 percent of the RISD community now vaccinated (and a rate of 95 percent projected for the start of the term), social distancing, low-density studios and classrooms, and outdoor mask requirements will no longer be necessary. 

“Our decision making has been—and will continue to be—guided by three primary goals: community health and safety, academic integrity and financial viability,” says Proulx. “In light of evolving information concerning the spread of COVID-19 variants—particularly the highly transmissible Delta variant—we are proceeding with caution and prepared to adjust protocols as needed.”

“In light of evolving information concerning the spread of... the highly transmissible Delta variant, we are proceeding with caution and prepared to adjust protocols as needed.”

Interim President Dave Proulx

All returning students, faculty and staff members will be tested before the start of the fall semester, and 20 percent of the population will undergo surveillance testing each week. Any individual who tests positive for COVID must isolate for 10 days or until a follow-up test yields negative results. 

members of the facilities team unload tables from a truck
The Facilities team is working to prepare campus classrooms, studios and residence halls for returning students. photo by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH


Although RISD will not host public events or gatherings during the fall semester, there will be no capacity limits for internal gatherings on campus. All participants must wear face coverings while indoors. Residence halls will also operate under near normal conditions, and students will not need to wear masks inside their own rooms.

RISD-sponsored domestic travel will be permitted, but RISD-sponsored international travel is not permitted unless circumstances warrant an exception. International students must secure travel visas and return to campus by September 30 in order to be enrolled in fall classes.

Custodial staff will continue to clean and disinfect common areas in all buildings, including residence halls and dining facilities, on a regular basis. Air quality will also continue to be a priority, with increased air circulation from outdoors and improved filter efficiency.

a worker cleans a window
Custodial staff will regularly clean and disinfect common areas in all buildings during the fall semester. photo by Jo Sittenfeld MFA 08 PH


Those returning staff and faculty members who are not vaccinated must continue to wear masks at all times and to maintain a distance of six feet from others. They must also undergo mandatory weekly testing.

“Planning for fall has been a monumental and complex undertaking, and I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this process,” Proulx says. “We have much work ahead of us as we prepare to reopen campus, but we are excited to come back together this fall and continue to build the student experience at RISD.”

For more information about COVID-related protocols and plans, as well as answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit covid.risd.edu.

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