Colleges face reopening campus uncertainty

Schools navigate public health concerns due to COVID-19

Grace Krumplitsch, Web Editor

While Convent & Stuart Hall administrators are working closely with public health officials to plan potentially reopening campus this fall, many colleges and universities across the country are faced with when and how they will reopen their campuses. 

“Portland sent out a message saying that they are not 100% sure what’s going to happen,” senior Abby Widjanarko, who is planning on attending University of Portland in the fall, said. “The latest news that I’ve heard is that they are trying to see if they could implement something called a ‘semi semester’ which is where classes meet for longer periods of time just in case coronavirus cuts it short so we are able to meet the certain requirement of class time.”

Many schools are creating new course schedules, start dates, orientation events and accomodations in case it is not safe for students to live and study on campus for the fall semester, according to College Counseling Director Rebecca Munda. 

“Colleges really want to have their students on campus and they are doing everything in their power to get them there by being creative and thinking about ways that they can make that happen,” Munda said. “It is not only in the students’ best interest, but it is in the best interest of the colleges.”

Although some schools are planning to reopen campus in the coming months, the University of California and California State University systems announced Wednesday that they will hold online classes for the entirety of the first semester of the 2020-2021 academic year. 

“Berkeley has been super on top of things because they have been sending out many emails saying they are preparing for any one of three situations,” senior Zoe Hinks, who is planning on attending the University of California in the fall, said. “The first option would be a completely online fall semester, the second would be a hybrid of online and in-person classes in smaller groups and the third model would be completely in person. I can not control when campus will be open, so I have to be okay with whatever happens.”

Social media may play a large role for students who might not get to have an in-person orientation over the summer to socialize with classmates. Joining Facebook groups and school social networks is a great opportunity for incoming freshmen to meet new classmates, friends and potential roommates in advance of living on campus, according to Widijanarko. 

“There is an Instagram page for the kids in my grade next year, and it is nice to see a lot of potential roommates,” Widjanarko said. “I direct message a lot of people — or they direct message me —  and we try to get to know each other online.” 

With the uncertainty of what the fall semester is going to look like for each school, it is important to stay caught up on communication via email, which is the primary form of communication during this time for the College Counseling Department and the universities themselves, according to Munda. 

“If seniors have any questions about the next semester, it is important that they reach out directly to the college they will be attending,” Munda said. “Colleges are communicating important updates via email and on their websites. They are doing their best to accommodate this incoming freshman class as they navigate these challenging times.”

Attending college is a four-year investment, not just a one year. When rearranging plans for the upcoming semester, seniors should look beyond the next few months and consider the broader picture before finalizing plans prompted by COVID-19. 

“The first few weeks of classes are when you meet a lot of your friends you get to know the college as a whole for a really special experience and I was looking forward to it,” Hinks said. “I have the mentality of understanding there are things I can control and cannot control so by staying home I am doing my part in making sure I am protecting myself and those around me.”

Although the start of the fall semester is just months away, it is too soon to finalize decisions as guidelines and coronavirus-related orders are in constant flux, according to Widjanarko. 

“I try not to stress about next year too much because of the amount that we just don’t know,” Widjanarko said. “Once we get information, then I’ll know what the semester is going to look like.”