Colleges prepare for in-person learning this fall

Canisius College. March 3, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)
Photo credit Canisius College. March 3, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Area colleges are getting ready for 2020-21 academic year, planning on in-person education. But there is the possibility distance learning may be required later on, making students and parents wonder if it's worth going this year.

Daemen College's Gary Olson says when students and faculty arrive for the start of the year, they'll be tested for COVID19. "Every single person will be tested, it's the main diagnostic test that we do. There is also an option for antibody testing," says Olson. After that, every time they return, they'll be screened, answering a questionnaire. "If the answers are reflective of someone not getting sick, they'll be approved that day to be on campus." 

Olson says he's planning on in-person classes. "That's not to say in a given class, a teacher one day may meet face to face but the next say we'll meet virtually because we're working on such-and-such a project," adds Olson. "But if something should happen in the college or the state to suggest we're seeing a spike in cases, we can pivot on a dime and go fully virtual."

At Canisius College, John Hurley says the plan is to resume classes August 31st, with students in residence halls and in the classroom in person, but with some differences. "Because of social distancing requirements, classes are going to have to be smaller, and this is going to require the faculty to rethink how they use the classroom time and what material is available online and what is done in the classroom," explains Hurley. "If a class has 30 students enrolled, they probably won't find a room where all 30 will be in a socially distanced environment so they'll have to be staggered in some way. That will require creativity and forethought from our faculty but we're working on it right now."

Hurley says the college is offering single rooms for students as well as allowing them to have roommates in an apartment or suite setting. "The students who have roommates would be considered a family unit for social distancing and isolation or quarantine purposes, if necessary," says Hurley. "The good part is they can have the experience, the challenge is going to be if one of the four has coronavirus, the other three will be exposed."

Hurley testing won't take place because tests will only show the presence or absence of coronavirus on that day, so the database would quickly be out of date.

With all that to take into consideration, is it worth waiting until next year? Jeff Boron of The Financial Guys says it depends. "You're paying tuition for the cost of the education. Part of that education is being in a classroom environment, socializing, learning from the professor and that disappears when you have distance learning," says Boron. "You're doing a combinstion of distance learning and you're watching lectures online, but it's not the same as being there."