Page 18 - BusinessWest April 28, 2021
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Back to Normal?
The Region’s Colleges Are Moving Closer to That Goal
 It’s hard to gauge what ‘normal’ looks like during the era of COVID-19, when normalcy is a moving
target. For area colleges and universities, though, getting back to normal means one thing: bringing as many students back to dorms and classrooms as possible. Make no mistake, campus life
this fall will still be different from the pre-pandemic college experience, but just opening those classroom and residence-hall doors is a big step — the result of many lessons learned during the most unusual academic year in memory.
 NBy Joseph Bednar
It’s an attractive concept
these days, if an elusive one. Just ask the folks planning for the fall 2021 semester at
the region’s colleges and universities. “This fall, we’ll go back to some nor- malcy, with classes back in person full-
time, students in the residence halls,
and athletes on the fields,” said Jonathan Scully, vice president of Enrollment Man- agement and Marketing at Elms College. “That’s the plan right now.”
Scully said Elms has long maintained a COVID-19 task force that meets every week to discuss public-health data, on- campus health metrics, current recom- mendations of the CDC and the state Department of Public Health, and, importantly, how faculty and staff feel
about a full return. “That all played a part in making decisions for the fall.”
He noted that students seem excited about coming back to Springfield Street in Chicopee, even though the college’s ElmsFlex hybrid plan, by which students could learn on campus, remotely, or with a combination of both, has been well-received.
“We’re not fully remote; we had that ElmsFlex option, because some students learn better in person, and some did better virtually, and they had the ability to move between the two freely,” Scully said. “But everyone is looking forward to a return to normalcy.”
Western New England University (WNEU) was among just 27% of U.S. colleges and universities that opened to mainly in-person learning and residen- tial living last fall and remained open through the 2020-21 year, having deliv- ered about 75% of courses on campus
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