By Anastasia Bekker
Elm Staff Writer
On April 9, the Washington College Contingency Planning Group announced via email that the College plans to host classes fully in-person in the fall semester.
Although the College is planning more in-person experiences for next semester, COVID-19 is still a concern. While WC’s campus is in a Green Alert Level as of April 20, and held a vaccination clinic on campus, plans for the fall still include social distancing, mask wearing, and other preventative measures.
“I don’t think we have enough people in this world vaccinated for … the [World Health Organization] to declare an end to the pandemic,” Lisa Marx, director of WC Health Services, said. “Numbers are still rising. If you look at other…countries, the numbers are still rising. Across the U.S., numbers are going up in certain states. I don’t think we’re looking at the end of this pandemic this spring.”
If students continue to follow safety procedures, to protect themselves and each other from COVID-19 and other diseases, all classes in the fall should be in physical classrooms.
According to James Kibler, a member of the Contingency Planning Group and the Alert Group, the College is planning a “hopeful return to an in-person experience for our students,” one that will include masks and social distancing.
There are still numerous unknowns as to what exactly the next semester will look like, such as the COVID-19 testing schedule and how many members of the WC community will be vaccinated by the fall. However, the CPG still plans to send out updates in order to keep students as informed as possible.
“Right now, the full update is monthly, [a]nd then we do a weekly recap,” Marx said. “I think that might be enough to continue in the next year … I think it’s important to have that continued information dissemination.”
Many students are excited to be returning to campus, and to return to the in-person, small classroom experience that drew them to the College.
“With our school, our classes are pretty intentionally small,” sophomore Nick Splendoria said. “I don’t think you get the same experience in an online class that you do when you’re in person.”
Splendoria, who is also the president of the College Democrats, is confident that being back on campus will help revitalize clubs and student life.
“Zoom fatigue is real,” he said. “I think once we’re all able to be in person, and actually share a space together, that’s going to positively impact every club’s ability to get new members and retain active members.”
Although there are many benefits of returning to in-person learning, there are risks of spreading COVID-19 as well. Because of the necessity of social distancing within the classroom, the CPG is looking for ways to accommodate all students.
“We’re trying to be creative and use some new spaces,” Kibler said. “We don’t want to close anybody out of a class.”
One measure that will help reduce risk and create a smoother transition to in-person classes is vaccinations.
“I do believe that having in person classes next fall is an achievable goal,” Marx said. “It is really important for everyone to help protect our flock and part of that is getting vaccinated and following recommended safety protocols.”
According to Kibler, the company Emocha may develop a feature for their app, which the College already uses to track symptoms, allowing students to inform WC Health Services whether they’ve been vaccinated.
For now, students can keep WC Health Services updated by emailing them a photo of their vaccination card.
To return to the in-person experience that students and faculty want, the WC community must continue to follow safety protocols to keep each other safe and healthy and help us return to a new normal this fall.