After an abrupt end to campus life during the spring semester, North Dakota college students are eager to get back to school this fall but nervous for how campus life will be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In the past weeks, universities across the nation have released plans for returning to campus and in-person classes. Most schools have adopted for a hybrid model, allowing for students to choose how much time they are in class in-person.
Madison Wood, of Crary, N.D., a sophomore at North Dakota State University in Fargo, said that as a business major she didn’t find the move to courses online too difficult, and she will take a mix of online and in-person classes this fall. She said, more than anything, being back on campus with her friends and peers will provide a sense of normalcy, even though the semester will look different.
“I am a little bit nervous and frustrated that it won’t be as normal as it was last year,” she said, “but I’m more excited just because I know it’s worth it to see my friends and get back into the groove and everything of school. But I hope that everyone is able to stay healthy.”
Madison’s mom, Erin Wood, said it was tough for her daughter to switch to online and get pulled out of a normal college life, but the family understands the necessity of hunkering down to stop the virus from spreading. She said sending Madison back to school brings mixed feelings, as she wants her to have the freedoms of any college student, but she also wants her to stay safe and healthy.
“I remember what it’s like to be her age and wanting to go out and do her own thing,” Erin said. “But the parent side always kicks in as well, and you want to make sure they’re always safe and protected.”
NDSU’s current status with regard to COVID-19 is at https://www.ndsu.edu/police_safety/covid_19_preparedness_and_response/
For NDSU sophomore Destinee Petsinger, of Grand Forks, and her friends, the prospect of returning to campus seems too good to be true. She said many of her peers fear recent outbreaks will lead to the school going online for the entirety of the fall semester.
“They don’t even think that it’s actually going to happen; it’s kind of an oblivion kind of thinking that it’s just going to get worse, which will lead to us not even returning in the fall,” Petsinger said.
Schools have also established face mask rules for students, staff and visitors to campus. Madison Wood said she understands the rules, but she and her friends think it will be weird not recognizing their peers walking through campus.
For University of North Dakota senior Macy Marquette, of Williston, wearing a mask to class isn’t ideal. Marquette said she hopes UND will have adequate testing available for students as the best way of keeping the virus from spreading.
“I don’t love the idea of wearing masks as a mandatory thing,” Marquette said. “I like my school, but I don’t really like that.”
Marquette said when she was first sent home from school in March, she was nervous about going out in public and potentially spreading the virus. Now, she said she feels more comfortable and is excited to be back in-person for her classes.
UND Student Body President Matthew Ternus said in an email that school leadership has worked hard to implement safety measures so students can return to campus. He said, like at many other universities, classes will be available both in-person and online, and class sizes will be limited in addition to other measures. Ternus said the student experience will be different this year because of these measures, but that they are meant to “create a safe environment for everyone on campus.”
NDSU senior Erica Solberg, of Bismarck, said she appreciates her school having diversity in course selection, as it will allow her classmates to select course schedules with which they feel most comfortable.
“Students aren’t forced to go either way,” Solberg said. “If you have other medical conditions or, you know, you interact with someone who is at high risk of having COVID, I think that’s wonderful that they give options for going online.”
Solberg said she believes most students will choose to take in-person classes as most are not in an at-risk group.
Other state universities, including Minot State (https://www.minotstateu.edu/health/covid-19/) and Dickinson State (https://www.thedickinsonpress.com/incoming/6566789-DSU-approves-reopening-guidelines-for-fall-2020) implemented similar measures, such as providing more hand sanitizing locations and limiting numbers for gatherings.