Most area colleges anticipate returning to normal operations in the fall if public health allows

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Area students say they are excited for an in-person campus experience

Most area colleges plan to return in-person in the fall after a year of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and officials are feeling cautiously optimistic about returning to normal operations.

University of Dayton officials said UD’s plan is to resume normal in-person teaching, learning, scholarship and community engagement for our students in the fall as long as it’s allowed in accordance with public health guidelines.

During the next several months, UD plans to evaluate several lessons learned during the past year, including teaching partially online and in-person classes, to determine how the university could consider integrating them into campus operations. UD has had mass in-person all academic year. The current limit is 75, and by reservation only. Capacity will expand in the fall, depending on public health guidance, the university said.

All of UD’s sports have had some sort action this winter and spring. The traditional spring sports such as baseball, softball, track, tennis, golf and rowing are still going on with appropriate health guidelines, school officials said.

“We will continue our focus on encouraging students to be vaccinated during spring semester and through the summer,” UD officials said. “We are continuing to do surveillance testing and strongly encouraging students to follow safety guidelines to help prevent the spread of the virus on campus. Fall is a long way off and our focus right now is keeping campus safe and encouraging vaccinations.”

ExploreHesitancy around vaccines more than misinformation

Laurie Fox, spokeswoman for Greene County Public Health, said most colleges and universities are taking guidance from state health agencies and working closely with their local health departments to have a safe plan to come back to campus.

“They’re working with us and urging students to get vaccinated to protect others,” Fox said.

Area colleges in their plans to return to campus should continue to push for students to social distance, wear a mask and wash their hands more frequently, she said.

“Students should continue avoiding those large gatherings,” Fox said. “Once you’re vaccinated, things can be a little more free, however, we don’t have all the details on that yet.”

Wright State has tentative plans to return partially in-person.

In an email sent to the campus community in March, President Sue Edwards announced planning has begun to allow a larger percentage of students to have access to in-person classes and increased residence hall capabilities during the fall semester, which begins on Aug. 23. Wright State plans to host a number of small-group in-person student orientation activities over the summer and will continue to offer in-person campus tours for future students and their families, according to the university.

In the Fall of 2020 and the Spring of 2021, about 35% of instruction was delivered in-person and about 65% of classes were delivered remotely. Most employees have also worked from home since the spring of 2020.

Taylor Titer, who will be a senior at Wright State next year, said she’s ready to return to campus. All but two of her classes are online this semester.

“I’m excited,” Titer said. “I think it is easier to learn things in person than online. Wright State is a lot more fun when everything is in-person.”

Titer is the president of the university’s activities board. She said it is difficult to get underclassmen or new students involved on campus with everything being online. Student organizations have been mostly meeting virtually, but can submit a request for an in-person meeting to the university.

“I miss everyone being on campus. There’s hardly any traffic on campus right now,” she said.

Freshman Parker Testa said Wright State’s campus is like a “ghost town” right now. He came to the Dayton-area from Indianapolis to attend Wright State.

All of his classes are online this semester, but he said he goes to campus as much as possible to try and get the college experience in a different way.

“Since I finished my senior year of high school online, I kind of knew what to expect, but tried to keep my mind open (his freshman year) because things are changing day-to-day,” Testa said. “I definitely understand the concern (about COVID), but I personally am excited because I haven’t experienced in-person in over a year.”

The university will continue to update the campus community on its plans for the summer and fall semesters in the weeks ahead, Edwards said in that email.

ExplorePandemic forces area colleges to get creative with recruiting new students

Miami University also released a statement in March saying that the institution plans to be mostly in-person this fall.

“As the rollout of the vaccines continues, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel for this pandemic and we believe all faculty and staff will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of July,” said Miami’s President Gregory Crawford in the statement. “We are excited about returning to in-person classes and operations by fall 2021.”

Miami recently increased COVID testing on campus and announced that there will be several in-person spring commencement ceremonies. The university is phasing back in-person work on campus starting in June. Miami expects staffing and operations after July 6 to closely resemble staffing and operations prior to the pandemic.

Cedarville University plans to return to normal operations this fall, the university announced this week.

Fall classes are set to begin on Aug. 18 with the university’s move-in weekend slated for Aug. 13 through 15.

With this current plan, the 2021 fall semester would return to typical pre-pandemic activities, including the university’s Fall Bible Conference, homecoming, fall sports, study abroad, Global Outreach, and other traditional activities. The academic calendar would go back to having a fall break to allow time to refresh mid-semester, the university said.

The anticipation of continuing vaccine benefits and more effective treatments for COVID-19 contributed to the announcement and planning for normal operations in the fall. Vaccinations are optional for Cedarville students, faculty and staff.

“Lord willing, we will return to our typical schedule and activities, spectators at sporting events, and so much else we once took for granted,” said Cedarville University President Thomas White.

The return to a more normal routine is welcome news after a year of COVID-19-related protocols and adjustments. This has meant limits on numbers of students attending the school’s daily chapel program in the Dixon Ministry Center and a switch to the Doden Field House for chapel during the winter months. An online viewing option for chapel has been available throughout the year.

The university has been holding both in-person and online classes this academic year.

Greene County Public Health held a COVID vaccine clinic on Cedarville’s campus on Tuesday. The public health agency will be with Honduras College next Wednesday administrating the vaccine.

According to public health, Cedarville has one of the highest COVID positivity rates in the county right now.

“I think it’s going to be a while yet to return to the normal that we knew prior to COVID-19,” Fox said. “I don’t know that that’s going to happen immediately, and I certainly don’t know that would happen by the fall. (Colleges and universities) want students back in the classroom, the students want to be in the classroom. I think they’re going to do whatever is necessary to minimize the risk of spread.”

Sinclair Community College anticipates a phased-in return to more in-person operations in the fall, said spokeswoman Cathy Petersen. The community college will continue to monitor public health conditions as they plan for the fall semester.

With the adjustments Sinclair made to courses and programs because of the pandemic, students will have more options than ever in the fall, whether it be in-person, online or a combination. Before the pandemic, about a third of classes Sinclair offered were online. Sinclair started fall 2020 with 85% of their courses online. Currently Sinclair is offering around 70% of its courses online.

Wilberforce and Central State did not respond to requests for comment on their plans for the fall semester.

Wilberforce’s 2021 fall academic calendar shows the semester starting on Aug. 2 with orientation sessions and COVID testing scheduled before that. Central State’s academic calendar lists classes starting Aug. 16.

About the Author