FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. (KNWA/KFTA) — Students are back on the U of A campus for the first time since the university shut down on-site learning back in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Manager of Communications John Thomas said about 480 students are enrolled in intersession courses, an accelerated program which started Monday. Some are learning virtually and some are on site.
“It’s been different but I was excited to be on campus but a little scared of what that would look like,” said Megan Rodgers one of those students.
In the program, a semester’s workload is done in about two weeks. Rodgers said staff is taking several steps to keep students safe, including smaller class sizes, and required face coverings inside.
“We have a lot of procedures in place like sitting in the same seat every day and we are maintaining distance and we all have to wear a mask.”
She is taking extra steps on her own.
“When I’m eating my lunch I like to find a spot very far from other people.”
There are 46 courses being offered and 21 of them are remote. Thomas said every teacher will have the technology to record their lessons to make it easier for students to follow their lessons off-campus.
Professor of Political Science Andrew Dowdle chose the virtual method.
“It’s different. One of the things you have to do is from the very beginning have a clear idea of how the class will be mapped out.”
Dowdle admits there are challenges.
“You are spending a third of your time teaching, a third of the time on computer tech and a third on general customer service.”
Thomas said this is a very fluid situation but if everyone follows the safety measures, they will be able to keep the onsite learning. However, they have the tools in place to transition back to full virtual learning necessary.
“We are encouraging everyone to use their best judgment and also if you’re unsure just wear a mask because it’s a lot easier to wear a mask then to try and remember every instance where it may be required or not,” said Thomas.
The Pat Walker Health Center is developing a contact tracing program, which Thomas said should be up and running in a week or so. Students and staff will be asked to self-screen themselves every day before coming on campus.
Rodgers hopes that when campus reopens to all students that everyone does their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
“Really thinking about people who I know who are immune-compromised while I’m making decisions helps me do what’s best and act with integrity.”