ST. LOUIS — On this freshman move-in day, the St. Louis University class of 2024 hopes there won’t be a move-out day anytime soon.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced colleges to make tough decisions on reopening campuses to students and staff as cases continue to rise, particularly among young adults. About one-third of U.S. colleges will be primarily or fully virtual this fall, including Lincoln University in Jefferson City, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
About 85% of the 1,575 freshmen at SLU are expected to move into the dorms this week before classes start Monday, many of them online. The shortened semester will end Nov. 24, followed by final exams taken remotely.
“Move-in day is an incredibly exciting day,” said President Fred Pestello. “Yes we have some protocols. We’re not going to be able to shake hands and hug each other (but) overwhelmingly we heard from our student body that they want to be in community with each other.”
Students are given rapid COVID-19 tests prior to move in and anyone who tests positive will stay in isolation rooms. One student living on campus over the summer tested positive July 24 and has completed a quarantine period, according to a campus spokesman.
Karen Stack of Glenview, Illinois, said she considered keeping her twins Kate and Andrew, 18, home to study virtually, but wanted the SLU freshmen to have as normal a college experience as possible, including lab classes.
“I’m very hopeful and thinking positively and cautiously,” Stack said.
The University of Missouri will welcome students to its campuses on Aug. 24. Students at Washington University will arrive on a staggered schedule starting next month.
Bethany Riley, 18, of Wildwood, leaves Sunday to move into the dorms at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, where all rooms are singles this year. She’ll major in music therapy, which she said would be difficult to do online. She also plans to join the jazz band and marching band.
Riley said she’s nervous about being exposed to the virus, but feels confident in the university’s plans to prevent its spread. While she said dating could prove challenging with masks and social distancing, she’s not worried about missing out on big social events.
“I’m here to learn,” she said. “Going to college is a way to start my own life and get on my own path.”
Neuroscience major Avyay Surampalli of Aurora, Illinois, said arriving Tuesday on campus at SLU helped him feel more comfortable after all the preparations leading up to move-in day.
“It’s going to be an unorthodox year, but I think it can still be fun,” he said.
Upperclassmen on hand Tuesday to help with moving in included Emma Power, a junior from Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Power said she’ll miss traveling to conferences with SLU’s Model UN club but feels a responsibility to the community to stay healthy.
“We go to a Jesuit university, ‘for and with others,’ and that means we’re not going to go to a party,” Power said. “It’s going to be different, but we want to be safe. We want to be able to stay here.”