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Southwestern College back in the classroom with first day of class

The campus closed down while students were on spring break in March because of COVID-19
Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 8:54 PM CDT
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WINFIELD, Kan. (KWCH) - The Southwestern College Moundbuilders are back in class.

Aug. 10 was the first day of the fall semester with in-person classes since before Spring Break in March 2020 when COVID-19 turned the campus into a ghost town.

“I feel like we were gone for so long.” Senior Claren McCormick said, “Definitely an extended summer if you will.”

The first day of classes is the reason students and professors are in a good mood at Southwestern College.

“This means a lot. It’s the last time I’ll be here. It’s the last time I get to play sports here. Last time I get to hang out with the people I’ve met here,” said senior Marcus Richard.

It’s a sense of normalcy they haven’t experienced since leaving for Spring Break.

Claren McCormick, who was in the Class of 2020, decided to come back one more semester to get a second degree but also reclaim some of what COVID-19 took away.

“Definitely coming back, I think I wanted the closure more than anything,” said McCormick. “Being a fifth-year senior, I wasn’t sure how it would be taken, me coming back. Not being able to say goodbye to some of those people I’ve had long-lasting relationships with was really tough.”

What McCormick and other students and staff are facing though is a different learning environment.

Facemasks, social distancing and handwashing are the three key new principles for learning.

“It’s become the new normal. At first, when we were taking all the precautions, it definitely felt weird because it wasn’t something we were used to but I think everyone’s getting used to it now. It is definitely nice to see people committing to the pledge,” said McCormick.

“Honestly, I feel like we might be one of the safer schools in Kansas.” Richard said, “I feel like everybody is taking a lot of precautions to make sure that we’re healthy here.”

President of Southwestern College Brad Andrews said this process and preparation started well before classes began.

“It is a very different academic year,” said Andrews. “We started the year by doing a pre-semester quarantine, where we had all students, faculty and staff quarantine 14 days prior to returning to campus. Isolate themselves in their own social circle.”

They’ve also taken the step of testing all students and staff as they come back onto campus.

So far, of the 900 tests completed, only three have come back positive.

“What’s important for us is to stop community spread and so what the testing allows us to do upon entry into the community is identified anybody who is asymptomatic, who does have the virus so we can treat them and care for them without spreading the virus without spreading it to the broader community.” Andrews said, “To us, this is essential to starting the semester in a safe way.”

Classrooms have also been set with less seating to make room for social distancing, there is a plexiglass shield between the professor and student while teaching and everyone in the classroom are to wear a mask.

The college says even though they have the ability to provide remote learning, that’s not what they want for the primary form of instruction.

“Very important for our students to learn in-person. Their outcomes are better, GPA is better, they’re more likely to graduate. They get more out of their education,” said Andrews.

Southwestern has also started the school year a week early, all three-day weekend and fall break have been dropped so they can wrap up finals before students leave for Thanksgiving and a long winter break.

One of the benefits the college said works in their favor is they’re a smaller campus.

Andrews said, “Being a small campus, we’re able to have socially distance space inside the classroom and be able to have safe relationships and interactions between students and faculty. "

For students, they said these steps are providing peace of mind, as they hope for no interruptions.

McCormick said, “It’s a delight to be back on campus and feel safe while I’m here.”

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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