As college administrators across the country look to regain some sense of normalcy on campus this fall, every indication is that the return to class will be anything but normal. Some schools are planning to resume via virtual learning courses, while others are hoping to be able to open their doors to students and physically teach them in classrooms. One thing is for sure—it will be a very different experience for students.
A college campus is, by its very nature, a social environment. It is a place where students learn, grow, and often experience their first taste of independence together as they prepare to enter the adult working world. So, how will things be different this year?
Taking Precautions and Adjusting Schedules
The one factor that is definite as students return to school is that an abundance of precautions must be taken. CDC guidelines will need to be followed, and many schools will take additional measures to ensure the safety of their faculty and student population.
- Most schools will adhere to stricter dormitory housing measures, including limiting the number of students in each dorm. George Mason University is planning to reduce its student dormitory population by 25%, while many schools will encourage local students to live at home and commute to campus.
- Early start. Some schools are planning to bring students back earlier than they typically do, to end the semester before Thanksgiving and get students back home before the anticipated wave of COVID-19 that coincides with flu season.
- College campuses this fall will likely be using far fewer traditional textbooks and more digital textbooks and learning materials. The potential for virus transmission through surfaces and objects that students handle seems to be accelerating this already growing trend.
- One of the most obvious ways that campuses will need to step up their games is in their sanitation and disinfection practices and procedures. Food distribution facilities will need to make adjustments, and general cleaning procedures for every area of the campus will need to be expanded. Schools will also be placing hand sanitizer stations at convenient, easy-to-access locations at every point throughout the school.
- One aspect of student life that is likely to be mandatory for quite some time is the requirement for students and staff to wear masks. As the director of UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Myron Cohen has stated, “Masks, masks, and more masks. You can’t say enough about masks.”
From COVID screening questionnaires to required COVID-19 testing, the fall semester at America’s colleges and universities is sure to be a whole new experience for everyone involved. Students, parents, professors, and faculty all agree on one thing—they want the students to be able to enjoy their college experience under the most “normal” conditions possible.
The new normal, however, is far different from our old normal. If everyone does their part and adheres to new guidelines, this school year will be a success and one that these young students will one day tell their grandchildren about.