St. Paul, Minn. (WCCO) — It’s move in week at the University of St Thomas, where most students will go back to class for the first time since March.

Students and faculty have the option to do in-person learning, a hybrid learning, or fully online learning. About 20% of students opted for online-only.

Before doing anything in-person, students sign a common good agreement, promising they’ll stick to health guidelines. They’re reminded on signs throughout campus.

Students moving into dorms will do so in set time blocks this week. Students will be spread out to not make any one residence hall especially busy.

Furniture in common areas is spread out, too. Additionally, St. Thomas has ordered outdoor furniture so students can still hang out, at least while it’s still warm enough.

But what if someone tests positive for COVID-19? Because most of St. Thomas’ student population is from Minnesota, they’re asking students go home to quarantine, if possible.

“We’re telling them, we’re gonna refund your food for two weeks, we’re gonna refund your residence hall for two weeks or whatever that time frame is you’re off campus,” said Karen Lange, the vice president of student affairs. “And we don’t want you back on campus until you’re feeling better.”

Students who can’t go home to quarantine can do so on campus. They have a few buildings blocked off for that purpose. Campus staff will deliver meals and check in on their health.

Everyone who’s back on campus wants to be. About 80% of students are coming back, whether for hybrid or full in-person learning.

In order to come back on campus, students had to sign a common good agreement, basically saying they’d follow health and safety protocol. They wouldn’t have gatherings of 10 or more.

That agreement gets everyone on the same page, and gives St. Thomas permission to enforce it.

Inside of the classroom, students will notice fewer seats to choose from. Big lectures are all online, and there’s a camera in the back live-streaming class on Zoom for classmates who decided on distance learning.

St. Thomas administrators say that camera concept might actually stick around even after the pandemic.

As for dorm life, that will also look different. They will be less crowded, with fewer spaces for mingling and no guests will be allowed in dorm rooms.

Despite the compromises, students are happy to be back.

“It’s a sense of community….you’re not alone,” said student Luana Karl. “It’s way better than sitting at home alone.”

Christiane Cordero

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