SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- UMass Amherst officials claim they will announce their plans for the spring semester no later than next Saturday.

One student has started a petition to press school administrators to allow more students to live on campus in the spring.

A freshman believes students will be safer and will have a sense of community on campus, where regular COVID-19 testing is required for the 1,069 students who live there now. But not all students agree.

“It’s extremely hard to meet people in class and out of class to be friends with,” said Dylan Jacobs who started the petition.

Jacobs may be stuck at home learning remotely for his first semester of college, however, in a short period of time, he’s amassed more than 1,000 signatures on a petition to get on-campus learning back at UMass Amherst for the spring semester.

Rather than letting kids live off-campus where social distancing can’t be closely enforced, Jacobs said he thinks it’s safer for students to be in the residence halls.

“Even if all classes are remote, you can still monitor kids 24 hours a day,” he said.

Anne Norton, a senior, lives off-campus in the Amherst community. Because she’s not in the dorms, she is not required to get COVID tested twice a week, but she does so anyway.

“We want to be welcomed by the Amherst community,” she said.

Using the latest numbers provided by the school, more than 120 off-campus students have tested positive for COVID-19. On-campus, it’s only been one.

Norton fears opening up campus in the spring could change that.

“I don't think that's the right thing to do,” she said. “Of course more kids equals more outbreaks.”

As school administrators work on their spring semester plan, they claim it is their goal to repopulate the campus as much as public health data allows.

Off-campus, a recent outbreak linked to a party led to 33 cases of COVID-19, according to local health officials.

Students who live off-campus said they have noticed a shift in the attitudes of students who live in the community.

“The lines have been out the door. Everybody's getting tested now even though it's not mandatory,” Norton said.

“It's definitely, like, increased,” student Abby Murphy said.

Still, these students feel like more progress needs to be made in fighting the virus, not just testing for it.

“I just don't think it's the right time for everybody to come back,” Norton said.

The school has announced its plan for the spring semester will come out no later than October 24.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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