Masks and testing: Fairbanks college students return to a changed university

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 5:07 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Little did students leaving for spring break last school year know that they would never make it back to campus that semester. As the country came to grips with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges across the nation moved to online learning. The University of Alaska Fairbanks was no exception. Since March, nearly all classes at UAF were distance-delivered and students weren’t allowed in dorms. Now they are coming back, but things are different.

“This semester we don’t have roommates, we don’t have people congregating in some of our larger lounges and spaces like that... just to limit the spread if the spread grew to be something that appears on our campus,” said UAF resident director Emmett Foster.

Other changes include mandatory mask wearing indoors and outdoors when students are within six feet of each other. Students coming onto campus are also required to receive two negative COVID-19 tests, one upon arrival and one two weeks later. They also have a location set up for students who do need to quarantine that includes food service and other amenities to ensure they are taken care of and keep up with classes.

Shadeed Shabazz is a basketball player for UAF and was in Seattle when COVID-19 hit last spring. He says since coming back, he has seen a change, “Coming back I could see that there is new energy, new staff and I am just welcoming myself to the new people and the new ways.”

Some students are coming to campus for the first time. Isabelle Bailey is a freshman at UAF from Palmer. She says that she originally was planning on going to a school down south but decided to stay in Alaska instead, coming to Fairbanks. “I actually get the experience of going away and being on my own rather than being at home possibly, and taking classes online,” Bailey said.

She said the mandatory tests, while understandable, were unexpected, “I wasn’t prepared for it because that’s not what I think about... like, ‘Oh, before I go to college I have to get tested for a disease.’ It’s not something that you normally think about right?”

Caren Carlson is a mom who was helping her son unpack. She said that she is glad they are having in-person classes and a somewhat normal college experience. She offered some advice to students for this school year.

“I think it’s all in the attitude -- stay strong! I say pray, got to pray, and just do the best you can.”

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