Classroom settings shift back to normal

Santiago Cuevas

Starting with fall semester, Augustana will resume full in-person instruction as COVID-19 cases lower and vaccination numbers rise. The Augustana Strong Taskforce is currently planning how the 2021-2022 academic year will look like as things start to go back to normal.
Currently, the plan is to reopen classrooms and common spaces to full capacity and reduce the amount of distancing as more students get vaccinated over the next few months. However, the plan is subject to change depending on health standards published by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Rebecca Heick, a member of the Augustana Strong Taskforce and assistant professor in public health, has been one of many faculty members helping plan the next school year.
“I expect when we return to campus in the fall that our classrooms will look very much like they did at the start of the 2019 school year, not the 2020 school year. I think we’re going to see that our classrooms aren’t as distanced as they are now,” Heick said.
In terms of vaccinations, the Augustana Strong Taskforce currently has no intentions of requiring students to vaccinate for COVID-19 before returning to campus. Despite this, there is a strong push for students to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“It’s optimal right now for us to encourage students to be vaccinated and continue to do so even after they returned to campus in the fall,” Heick said.
Masks, on the other hand, may still be required in the beginning of the semester, depending on what the federal and state guidelines are.
With next semester returning to fully in-person instruction, students have a lot of opinions on how next semester is going to look like and how the school is approaching the return to full in-person classes.
First-year Austin Earley hopes that teachers will continue to record their lectures like they have been this past school year in order to help students who have to miss class due to sickness or other issues.
“Teachers should record their classes because it makes it easier for students who have to miss class due to things like sports and work. It also makes it easier to review in-class notes while studying for a test,” Earley said.
Other students like junior Mary Baril hoped that the return to in-person instruction would have been somewhat of a smoother transition rather than just completely rushing into it.
“I feel like we could have eased into it a little bit more rather than just going from being completely online to half online, half in-person to like fully in-person,” Baril said.
The pandemic has created a new sense of normal for students, and returning to what used to be the old normal can be overwhelming, especially to first-year students like Portia Carrera who was not present at Augie before the pandemic started.
“I’m a little nervous because we’re getting thrown back into main society and into how things used to be and we don’t quite know what that was,” Carrera said.
For students that are hesitant to return to full in-person classes, Heick recommends that students talk to someone at the dean of student’s office.
“If students have concerns or are wondering what their options might be for next year in terms of potentially not being here on campus, I would have them start with the dean of students office. They’re the ones that really kind of steer the pieces associated with options for students and what kind of tools there might be,” Heick said.
Although the pandemic is still not over, students are excited to have some sense of normalcy back after a year of restrictions and limits.
“I’m just really excited for next year. Hopefully, it will be what a normal college experience would be like. Right now we don’t exactly know what a normal college experience is like, and I’m hoping we get to experience that next year,” Carrera said.
With the return to in-person instruction and the easing of COVID-19 restrictions on students, next academic year has students excited about returning to campus to experience a normal school year. However, students still have to keep in mind that the pandemic is still ongoing, despite restrictions easing up.
“I know students are excited to get back to their normal lives and everything, and they want to hang out with everyone instead of having to do small gatherings. But we have to remember that COVID-19 isn’t officially gone,” Baril said.