Walsh ‘certainly concerned’ about return of Boston colleges

Mayor Martin Walsh said he’s “certainly concerned” about the looming return of colleges, saying the city is working with its many higher-learning institutions to figure out how to bring kids back safely this fall.

“I’m certainly concerned about the thousands of young people coming to our city, especially from the areas around the country that are experiencing recent surges in COVID-19 cases,” Walsh said.

The mayor, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, said his administration has been working with the heads of the colleges on protocols and plans on what to do to with people who test positive.

He said permitters are in the process of reviewing four applications from colleges right now for auxiliary housing, which colleges are eyeing as a way of making dorms less concentrated.

The Boston Planning & Development Agency has given positive recommendations to proposals by Boston University, Suffolk University and the New England Conservatory of Music to use hotels and other spaces. BU is looking to place 179 beds in an unused property, Conservatory of Music seeks to put up to 98 students in beds in the Revolution Hotel, and Suffolk wants to spread 473 student beds across the Doubletree Hilton, Wyndham, Boxer and Hyatt Centric hotels.

The BPDA is still reviewing Northeastern’s proposal to lease rooms for potentially 900 beds between in Westin and Midtown hotels. All of the colleges’ plans need further permitting approval in order to go into effect.

Walsh said the city will be inspecting these sites.

The mayor said he plans to meet with brass from the various colleges this week for an update on how the process is going.

“I’ll be asking them how they plan to adhere to the governor’s quarantine order for students living on campus as well as off campus,” Walsh told reporters.

The mayor stressed the need to work with the schools to do contract tracing, figuring out where infected students had been and who they’d been in contact with.

“This will be our most powerful tool in ensuring the transmission rates remain low,” Walsh said.

He also said colleges are looking at having separate quarantine spaces for students who test positive.

Normally, the last weekend in August is “move-in weekend,” when the city — particularly student-rich Allston-Brighton — is flush with moving trucks bringing the city’s 300,000-plus students back.

“That’s going to look very different this year,” Walsh said. “We won’t be able to have move in all in one day.”

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