As we all know, ULM decided over the summer to come back on-campus and hold face-to-face classes this semester. Of course, because of the coronavirus pandemic, this decision was controversial. Some support it, some don’t.
Of course, one of the most pressing concerns is whether or not it will work. Will we be able to go an entire semester without an outbreak on campus? According to Shane Dykes, ULM’s environmental, health and safety officer, we won’t.
“There will be cases on campus,” Dykes said. “We cannot avoid it.”
But, he said that ULM has taken proper safety measures to keep the campus community safe.
Stacy Starks, assistant professor at the School of Allied Health, feels similarly. She said that there will definitely be cases on campus. But she also said, “How the ULM community responds to those cases will be important.”
Many factors were taken into consideration while making the decision of whether or not to come back onto campus, according to Dykes. They took student, staff and faculty surveys into consideration as well as the distance that most students travel to be at school and international students, some of whom could not go home.
“Our Return to Campus plan is the result of countless hours of discussion and planning from ULM’s COVID-19 Taskforce,” Dykes said.
It doesn’t seem that the goal is to prevent cases from happening, but just to contain them and keep from having a mass spreading of the virus.
There were also many students in health-related fields that were affected by the decision to continue with on-campus learning.
Heather Parker, a nursing student, said that she does fear how her schooling could be affected by the virus. Part of her education includes attending labs and clinicals.
“I am afraid that the hospitals and clinics will decide it is not safe to have students on their campus,” Parker said.
And it seems that the school’s precautions and guidelines are going to be able to adequately protect students and staff.
“As of today, ULM is absolutely a safer place than the grocery store or gas pump,” Dykes said. ULM recently had a COVID-19 inspection by the Louisiana State Fire Marshal’s office and there were no problems.
As for the precautions that students and staff need to take to keep themselves safe, both Dykes and Starks said that people just need to stick to the rules that we’ve all heard time and time again. Social distance, wash your hands, use sanitizer, don’t go out if you have symptoms and don’t travel.
The decision to continue with in-person classes is one that faculty and staff seem to be optimistic about.
“Some students need face-to-face interaction,” Dr. Starks said. “Hopefully, being back on campus will support students and help keep them on track for academic success.”