Slippery Rock University students can expect a sense of normalcy this upcoming fall semester as the university announced they plan to return 80% of classes to an in-person format.
In an email sent out to university stakeholders on Feb. 24, SRU President William Behre said when classes begin Aug. 23, students may still be wearing masks but will be a part of “a more traditional college experience.”
Along with a large increase of in-person courses, the experience will include welcoming back roughly 2,300 students to on-campus housing. As part of COVID-19 restrictions this academic year, SRU was only able to house around 700 students. When they return in the fall, no more than two students will live together in student housing.
Behre added that students could expect in-person dining to resume and an increase of in-person co-curricular activities.
According to Behre, getting to an 80% in-person class rate has always been the administration’s goal. With the viral trend in the United States declining, along with a better understanding of the virus and mitigating its spread, the university believes it has enough time to prepare the campus so it can welcome more students back to The Rock.
Part of those preparations is converting public spaces on campus like the ballroom and alumni house into larger classrooms. Behre added that the university is also looking to rent public spaces in the community during the week to accommodate as many classes as possible.
Along with the declining viral trend and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, the university’s own preventative measures will allow for a more typical experience, Behre said.
Some of those measures are happening right now, according to Behre. Clear plexiglass barriers have been purchased and being installed throughout laboratories on campus to allow more students to work safely, yet closer, together.
The university also purchased more than 125 ionizers that “have been shown to eliminate 99% of viruses, bacteria, and molds,” Behre said in his email.
When students return to campus on Aug. 23, they can expect time to relax and refocus throughout the semester. The university plans to keep a scheduled fall break in mid-October and allow students time to visit family for Thanksgiving before returning to close out the semester.
Behre stressed that those breaks are not set in stone because the pandemic’s effects have been unpredictable. While worried that a new strain of the virus could set the progress made back, his “complete intent” is to keep those breaks as scheduled.
With breaks and more students back in Slippery Rock, Behre’s email rounded out the expected fall experience to include more employees working on campus, study abroad opportunities to returnEnglish and collegiate sports with limited fan attendance, making a comeback.
Addressing the chaos the pandemic has caused, Behre thanked everyone for their diligence to make a normal semester a possibility.
“I know that these past 12 months have been difficult for the vast majority of us – faculty, staff, and students alike – as we’ve all tried to juggle school, work, and other responsibilities,” Behre said in his email. “But at the same time, I’ve been impressed by not only the resilience of our community in responding to the pandemic and its many challenges, but also for our collective dedication to our jobs, education, and, most of all, each other. Kudos to all.”