In an email to the student body on Wednesday morning, Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen announced the school’s plan for reopening in the fall. The email was relieving to some students looking forward to coming back on campus, but also left unanswered questions for others.
Classes will begin on Aug. 17, a week earlier than scheduled, and the semester will end on Nov. 25.
Students have said they are excited about the prospect of being able to return to campus and resume activities but also have expressed concerns and questions that haven’t been addressed yet, as the plan is still in its early stages.
Junior mechanical engineering major Carsen Otremba is one student who has expressed such concerns.
“I feel that they have not yet released any real information about the plan going forward,” Otremba said. “They said classes could be fully online, partly online or fully in person. That leaves open all possibilities and really tells us nothing.”
The email also states students and faculty will be expected to wear face coverings and practicing frequent cleaning and personal hygiene practices.
Emma Plum, a junior marketing major, said she is mostly relieved to hear the plan is for students to return to campus. She said her only worry is about how seriously others will take the precautions.
“The only thing I’m really worried about is how serious some people are going to take these precautions; some people’s hometowns may not have been affected by the pandemic as much as others have and won’t be accustomed to wearing their masks and practicing social distancing,” Plum said.
Thielen Student Health Center is planning to be available as a testing location for students, staff and faculty. Iowa State’s Department of Residence (DOR) also announced changes that residence halls will be making to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The move-in process is expected to be spread out over a longer period of time and bedroom occupancy will be limited to one or two people. Triple and quad rooms will be assigned as doubles. Quarantine and isolation spaces will also be provided.
“More than anything, I am just excited to be able to go back to campus,” Plum said. “That was a big worry and so I would say I’m more relieved than anything else. It’ll just be interesting to see what things look like when we do get back.”
The DOR also said testing is expected to be available for residence hall students at move in and staff will have to do a daily symptom check before reporting for work.
Changes also include the expansion of to-go options at the dining halls and the addition of grocery items in the markets.
For students whose classes are very hands-on, a lot of questions remain about how they will be able to participate in those classes while also practicing social distancing.
“I’d say that I’m really excited to be back in school, but I’m also really nervous about how classes are going to work and how distancing is going to affect my dancing and acting classes, and even as to how the shows are going to work,” said Jessica Fenton, a junior in performing arts.
The Board of Regents also approved tuition for the 2020-2021 school year that matches the 2019-2020 rate. Depending on what happens over the course of the fall semester, they could alter spring semester tuition.
Senior apparel, merchandising and design major Logan Benson is also heavily involved in activities and classes that could be greatly affected by social distancing. In addition to performing in Iowa State Theatre productions, she also does costume design.
“Since I’m an apparel design major, all of my classwork is hands-on," Benson said. "When we initially had to go online last semester, it was upsetting because that kind of instruction simply isn’t the same or as beneficial. It’s hard to do projects when you don’t have the resources.”
Angie Hunt, news service director at Iowa State’s Office of Strategic Relations and Communications said the answers to many students’ questions are a part of ongoing work being conducted by the Executive Committee on Fall Planning and updates will be provided as more information becomes available.
“I was really happy when I read the president’s plan for this fall. I am happy the university is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19," Benson said. "I am really happy that they are doing what they can to make classes that are more hands-on still be able to meet in person and have access to labs and resources.”
Wintersteen also said in the email there are plans to reconfigure classrooms and delivery of the courses, saying that many classes will be offered in person, online or a combination of the two.
“Majors that are more hands-on cannot be expected to go online and have the same experience, it’s just not possible,” Benson said. “So I am happy with the step the university is taking and am glad they are considering the needs of all students and majors.”
The Board of Regents senior communications director Josh Lehman did not respond when reached out to for comment, but in a June 4 meeting, they emphasized their desire and intent for students to be able to achieve a full on-campus experience this fall.
"We do believe we can open our campuses in a safe manner, so that is how we are proceeding," Mike Richards, president of the Board of Regents said in the meeting. "We know there are many questions, but we want everyone to know these plans are proceeding as quickly as possible."