“Back to WAC”: How students can begin to get outside — and continue to be safe — post-spring break

By Kaitlin Dunn

Elm Staff Writer

With spring in full bloom, many Washington College students might be looking for more ways to get out and explore the community and surrounding areas as they may have been unable to early in the semester, while still practicing COVID-19 safety protocols.

As of March 23, the College has reported a yellow Campus Alert Level, and have additionally adopted a hybrid Hyflex model of course instruction, with 40 classes incorporating both in-person and online learning.

According to the Contingency Planning Group update published on April 2, “students who opted to attend in person [have] followed all of the safety protocols and enjoyed the opportunity to be back in the classroom,” and explore off campus in the surrounding Chestertown area. 

For those who have been unable to get out and explore the surrounding off-campus area yet, there are many ways in which one can get to know the Chestertown community, all while abiding by COVID-19 guidelines.

“Making friends and exploring the Chestertown area while following COVID-19 guidelines have been easier than what I thought before I got here,” freshman Ali Pensky said. “There are a few coffee shops [such as Play It Again Sam and Evergrain] in town with outdoor seating and I often go there to do my online classes if I want to leave my room for a change of scenery.” 

WC students can also safely visit other notable local shops in Chestertown, including The Bookplate, a local secondhand bookshop that requires masks and has hand sanitizing stations available; the Cat Colloquium, where patrons sign up prior to visiting to spend quality time with cats; Figg’s Ordinary, which offers an assortment of food items including a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian options; Chestertown Natural Foods, an eco-friendly store specialized in providing local organic food; and many more.

Many students have expressed using the outdoor dining options in order to get out or get a change of scenery while also abiding by COVID-19 guidelines, including maskings and social distancing.

“I try and get out and explore the shops in Chestertown on the weekends, so it doesn’t interfere with my studies,” freshman Ashley Kreitz said. “The great thing about most of the shops in town is that they have carryout options, which alleviates some of my stress regarding COVID-19 and eating indoors.”

If you are still hesitant to go out of the campus environment right away, the College also offers on-campus opportunities for students to optimize their time for the remainder of the semester, while still abiding by COVID-19 guidelines. 

According to Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Sarah Feyerherm, students can still make the most out of being outside and best protect yourself and others, including “using the tents on campus for group gatherings or the fire pit by the quads.” 

For those who are feeling a little more adventurous, Dean Feyerherm also recommends students to explore beyond Chestertown — all while continuing to be safe. 

“Walking downtown for the Chestertown Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market on Saturdays, exploring the local area [such as waterfront areas Rock Hall and Eastern Neck Island] are all ways for students to get out and take advantage of the area,” Dean Feyerherm said. 

According to Dean Feyerherm, as the spring weather continues to get warmer, the College will also allow further opportunities for students to explore the outdoors, including “opening up [the] waterfront for students to kayak.”

While the temptation to get out is high, it is important to still abide by COVID-19 safety protocols to best protect yourself and others. This includes wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and daily usage of the Emocha app.

“I say this all with my usual caveat to not let your guard down,” Dean Feyerherm said. “COVID-19 cases continue to be spreading, particularly among unvaccinated and younger people, but with some diligence we can keep it at bay on our campus.” 

Chestertown and the surrounding areas have many opportunities for students to get out and explore the area, all while being safe and conscientious throughout still-uncertain times. 

By safely getting out and taking advantage of all the opportunities available, students can begin to establish a resemblance of pre-pandemic normalcy on the WC campus.

Featured Photo caption: Within the surrounding Chestertown area, local businesses — such as Chestertown Natural Foods (above) — are offering the WC student body the chance to get out and about post-spring break safely. Photo by Ben Wang.

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