Trinity College Dublin will reopen its front gate for the first time in over a year as part of a two-step plan to edge towards normality in the new academic year.
An email circulated to staff and students at the university on Friday set out cautious reopening plans with initial safety precautions to be reviewed at the end of October.
In a shift toward familiar college life, students will be permitted to come and go on campus. Previous guidance had asked that anyone in physical attendance leave as soon as they no longer needed to be there.
"We are adopting a two-phased approach, starting out cautiously in the first half of the new semester. This will mean that there are limits to in-person learning. Each School is figuring out what is possible within the social distancing limits," university Provost Linda Doyle said in a circular.
Library and study spaces will remain socially distanced, and students will have to book allotments limited to an hour and three quarters. The official intention is to further relax restrictions from November 1st.
“So while there are limits, I do believe we will see the campus start to come back to life,” Ms Doyle said.
For many on staff and among the student body, however, the watershed moment will be the reopening of the university’s grand College Green entrance on September 6th, although access will initially remain unavailable to members of the public.
It closed in March, 2020 along with much of the city as the Covid pandemic took hold, a visible symbol of the city’s fate. Its reopening is being seen by many in the college as the first tentative steps toward normality.
“It really feels like we are reconnecting with the city again,” said a spokesman, describing the reopening as deeply symbolic. “It felt as if the college has been a bit of an island in the middle of the city, marooned.”
The university has also acknowledged some may be disappointed at the level of caution compared to other third level institutions, an approach it has said is linked to its location and campus layout and which it has defended as being in line with public health expert advice.