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Classes resume on Texas A&M campus amid coronavirus concerns, precautions

Classes resume on Texas A&M campus amid coronavirus concerns, precautions

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Texas A&M University students returned to campus Wednesday, the overwhelming majority wearing masks, and many holding on to concerns and hopes regarding the upcoming academic year. 

For freshman Julia Keys, the decision to go to school in-person this year — rather than opting for online learning options made available due to the COVID-19 pandemic — was fueled by her learning style. She said being physically present in class is best for her. 

Keys is optimistic about the upcoming year. She hopes to attend a football game and participate in campus activities. She said she’s happy with the school’s safety precautions, which make her feel like leaders are doing their best to ensure students are able to continue taking classes in Aggieland for as long as possible. 

“I’m excited to get my work done,” Keys said. “Hopefully COVID will pass pretty quickly. I think it will be a good year.”

While official enrollment numbers are not available yet, preliminary enrollment as of the first day of class is sitting at 70,606 students across the College Station, Galveston, Health Science Center and Qatar campuses, according to A&M’s Data and Research Services website. The website says that as of this time last year, there were 69,465 students enrolled. This year, 18,212, or 27.6%, of students from all campuses said they are choosing to participate remotely, according to information from A&M spokeswoman Kelli Reynolds. 

Of the thousands who chose to return to the College Station campus this year, 10,057 have moved into on-campus dorms or apartments over the past couple weeks. There are reservations for 10,269 people this fall, meaning about 98% of students opting to live on campus have checked in so far, Carol Binzer, director of administrative and support services in the department of residence life said Wednesday morning.

“We are excited students are back on campus and hopeful that through the observation of safety precautions — masks, hand sanitizing, and physical distancing — we can maintain health and well-being for all,” Binzer said.

Junior Hannah Hart said she made the trek from Tennessee to Texas because she is a resident adviser for A&M’s Residence Life department. She said the role comes with more responsibilities this year, from cleaning when she makes her evening rounds at the dorm to knowing that she will need to help take meals to students if someone in her hall has to quarantine due to COVID-19. 

Hart said she hopes she gets to attend a football game this year, and is looking forward to having more one-on-one time with friends in smaller group settings than usual, since large events have been canceled due to the pandemic. 

Graduate student John Weeks is less optimistic about this upcoming year. The instructor of record with the department of mathematics said he thinks all courses will move online within one month. Weeks is one of hundreds of people who signed a petition that calls on the university to permit any request from graduate workers to teach remotely, and includes other similar demands.

Despite his concerns, Weeks said he is doing everything he can to adapt to the situation and make sure his students have what they need to succeed and feel comfortable this year. 

“We are just going to try to get through this together as a team,” he said. 

Gates Ballroom in the Memorial Student Center is where Weeks taught one of his math classes on Wednesday. The space is one of several nontraditional areas on campus that has been converted for instruction; others include All Faiths Chapel, the Ford Hall of Champions and Reed Arena. 

Getting back into the swing of being on campus has been an adjustment, senior lecturer for the department of communication David Tarvin said. He said he dreams that everything will return to normal next fall. 

While Tarvin mentioned that he has seen photos on social media of students gathering in large groups without masks in the days leading up to class starting, he said he was surprised at how well everyone followed the safety precautions on Wednesday. 

“As far as the first day goes,” he continued, “it went better than I expected.”

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Related to this story

More than 5,000 Texas A&M students living both and off the College Station campus have been randomly selected for COVID-19 testing and subsequent contact tracing should a positive result be returned. While the testing is voluntary, Provost Carol Fierke said testing could be mandatory in the future.

While the event usually draws a large crowd of cadets’ loved ones to Simpson Drill Field, families were asked to view this year’s event online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The organization’s tradition was a chance for the students to take the Cadet Oath and conduct their first “pass-in-review” — in which cadets march by Corps leaders and salute — as members of the Corps. 

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