DUBUQUE, Iowa. (KWWL) ------Colleges across eastern Iowa are preparing to welcome students back to campus. How is this upcoming return to the college classroom -- be it real or virtual -- looking in the age of COVID-19?
Although extraordinary, the challenge posed to staff at each of Dubuque's three schools is familiar by now.
"We've taken the more difficult path, the road less travelled, but I think that has made all the difference for us, and we're going to continue to press ahead," Jeffrey Bullock, president of University of Dubuque, said.
UD, Loras College and Clarke University are again offering in-person classes alongside remote learning options.
"We just think it's really important for students to be engaged. That their social, emotional brain health is really what has suffered for this age demographic more than anything else," Bullock said.
One way students stay engaged: sports.
"The strength of the athletic programs does bring students to us from around the country," said Thom D. Chesney, president of Clarke University.
Each college sports conference has strict guidelines on COVID testing, and mandatory quarantines upon coming back from winter break. Non-athletes, too, are asked to hole up before COVID-era classes begin again.
"We added a buffer week; a self-quarantine, work from home week, after the holidays," Chesney said. "We're ready to welcome them, but we're ready to stay safe and healthy as well."
AT LUTHER, A PETITION TO STAY ONLINE
In Decorah, Iowa, Luther College resumes in-person learning next week. This despite a petition signed by 1200 people in total. Among those who signed, 688 identify as current students, "to continue online instruction with an optional on-campus residency until the end of January."
The petition continues: "We as students, family members, staff, and or faculty feel that forcing everyone to come back to campus at this time will threaten the entire Luther and Decorah community."
Luther College replied to this petition with a statement that reads, in part:
"Throughout the virtual learning period and the winter break, Luther has tracked cases of COVID among students and employees, both on campus and at their homes, and case numbers have declined during the winter break... We believe the data indicate that a return to in-person learning is the best option for the college community, recognizing that some of our community members feel stress and concern."