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College should move forward with ‘Flex’ program for spring semester

By Natalie Notaro

As the fall 2020 semester progresses, students from the College are beginning to wonder their fate for the spring. Will we remain students of Zoom University? Will we be full-time students again? Will the school implement a Flex program? These are questions that we will hopefully get answers for in the upcoming month. 

Although professors have been doing their best regarding online learning, it’s necessary for the well-being of students that the College implements a Flex program for the spring 2021 semester, offering a mix of in-person and remote classes.

We should return to campus for the spring 2021 semester and implement a ‘Flex’ program (tcnj.edu).

The U.S. is approaching the eighth month of the global pandemic. With this, schools and companies have been adapting to the “new normal.”  This means that they are attempting to go about their normal routine, but with modifications for everyone’s health and wellness. Around the country many grade schools, high schools and universities have welcomed their students back into the classroom with safety regulations. Citizens of New Jersey are allowed to go to the gym, the mall and restaurants. So why can’t we go back to school?

New Jersey Gov. Murphy gave permission for higher education institutions to reopen as of Aug. 13, just days after College President Kathryn Foster decided to switch from a Flex program to all-remote instruction. The College is authorized to reopen, and if we do so safely, we can enjoy what remaining college years we have left. 

Some people may think that we should not attend in-person classes until there is a vaccine. But we realistically have no idea if or when we will have access to a safe vaccine, and some of us might graduate by then.

The College has already crafted a Flex plan that would keep its students safe. Mandatory masks are a requirement that all students should be more than willing to comply with. The campus will have hand sanitizing stations in every building as well. For even further preventive action, the College can require weekly testing and enforce smaller class sizes. 

As a junior, I have three remaining semesters at the College. This is already a saddening thought, but even more so when I face the harsh reality that those semesters may continue being spent on my couch. I think that I speak for many students when I say that although I have learned to adapt to online instruction, I thrive better in a real classroom atmosphere. Part of the reason that I came to the College was for the intimate class sizes and quality hands-on learning experiences. 

I live in an off-campus house filled with education, business and engineering majors. We are at the age where in-person experiences are necessary for our future employment. One of my housemates is completing online labs, which are a useful adjustment, but cannot possibly be the long-term norm. 

There are solutions to any potential problems that may arise if we were to attend in-person classes. The College should copy models from other universities. For example, the University of Richmond has in-person classes, but each week, students are randomly emailed and assigned to get tested for Covid-19. Students who test positive are sent to live in a separate dormitory for two weeks. The College can also have a dorm for students who test positive for the virus, which would further contain its spread.

A Flex program would be the best option for the spring semester. In turn, students will gain back some sense of normalcy, and will benefit from the distant yet social interactions with peers and professors, boosting their mental health. 

We only have four years of college, and even if we have to adjust to a new and safer “normal,” these are modifications that the student body will be more than willing to make.

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