With COVID-19 omicron cases surging throughout the state, college universities are working to find ways for students to return to campus safely.
That includes at Presentation College and Northern State University in Aberdeen.
Research suggests that in-person learning is more effective than online learning. With the state currently having its highest active case count since the pandemic began, Presentation and Northern State have both implemented measures to prevent students from catching the virus.
Classes resumed at both schools Monday. But while Northern students returned to campus, Presentation decided to have its students attend classes online for the first two weeks of the semester.
“We had all of our students who live in campus housing COVID-tested when they arrived back on campus,” said Presentation Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Marcus Garstecki.
The two weeks online allow enough time for students to take their COVID tests upon arrival and quarantine, if needed. Students who are commuting to campus, as well as staff and faculty, also had to take a COVID-19 test once they return to campus. They will also be required to wear masks in public buildings.
All Presentation sporting events are currently closed off to fans. The administration will decide whether or not to open back up events after the two-week period, said Marketing and Public Relations DirectorAndrew Hansen.
Each Presentation student received a packet of at-home test kits containing two tests, said Garstecki.
Similarly, Northern is also implementing a testing program. Tests are not required, said Vice President of Enrollment, Communications and Marketing Justin Fraase, but students have access to at-home testing kits whenever they need them. Students can take multiple test kits if they want.
Garstecki said Presentation students won’t be required to continue doing routine testing unless they have symptoms. However, changing protocols is always a possibility depending on how the rest of the semester plays out.
“Our goal is to be able to finish the semester and make it a successful semester for everybody. And, obviously when our students and employees are healthy that goes a long way toward making that happen,” he said.
If a student tests positive, both Presentation and Northern have separate buildings for students to quarantine until they have recovered.
Northern is largely following guidelines set by the statewide university system. While the university does not require masks, Fraase said N-95 masks will soon be available for people on campus. The university is also looking into holding a vaccine clinic with Avera Health. Northern hosted three clinics last semester and administered more 300 vaccine doses, he said.
Omicron is thought to bring about more mild cases than previous strains of COVID-19, with many people presenting symptoms like those of the common cold. Fraase recommends students get tested to see if they are positive or not. Students are encouraged to reach out to faculty, who will be accommodating students who need to stay home.
He encouraged students to take advantage of the free tests.
“Get vaccinated if you’re comfortable in doing so. Get boosted if you’re comfortable in doing so," Fraase said.
This article originally appeared on Aberdeen News: presentation northern return to classes covid-19 surge