MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — After a virtual syllabus week, Northern Michigan University students are back in the classroom, with the university taking many precautions to ensure students’ and faculties’ safety for this academic year.
“I got an e-mail from a student this morning and she said ‘let’s get this semester started’ with an exclamation point,” said Derek Hall, Chief Marketing Officer, Northern Michigan University.
“It feels good. It’s great to see students walk around campus. We started classes last Monday, but we did so online.”
Northern Michigan University made a lot of modifications to their classrooms, by lowering occupancy levels, distancing students’ chairs 6 feet apart, and installing Plexiglas guards, they’re ready for classes to begin.
“Our kids are excited to be here,” said Hall.
“We appreciate the trust that they put in us and their families put in us, but especially the freshmen. Their senior year, they just want to move on and have something that feels kind of normal and we are glad we are here face-to-face.”
Northern also made the option available for students if they would prefer to keep in-person classes to a minimum amidst this pandemic.
“A lot of classes are hybrid, where a student would attend in-person on Monday and maybe online the other day, just depends on the topic and the class and the enrollment.”
The need to quarantine their students has gone smoothly due to their students understand why these measures are being taken, according to Hall.
“We have tested everyone returning to campus, all of our students, faculty, and staff, and that’s about 7,700 tests. It was quite a process.”
The university contracted a Chicago lab to get the COVID-19 test results back quickly, but due to delay, Northern made the first week of classes entirely online. Campus health officials are reportedly working closely with the Marquette County Health Department in their efforts for contact tracing.
“We are fully prepared to teach the semester out,” said Hall.
“We feel really comfortable with our preparations, we did a lot of work over the summer and the closure of campus would take a mandate from the governor, but we are comfortable with where we are at with our health monitoring, the rules we have in place, and our students are cooperating and that’s the greatest thing.”
Students who either tested positive or came in close contact with somebody who tested positive with COVID-19 have been relocated to Spalding Hall, the official campus quarantine facility. Those students will be there until they’re cleared by the University.
“I have two of my students in my class that are in quarantine and while it might not be the best situation, they understand the world we live in.”
Out of the 7,700 tests, 32 came back positive, and there are currently 72 students quarantined in Spalding Hall.
One wing of residence hall has been dedicated to those 32 students who have tested positive for COVID-19, while the rest of the building has been occupied by students who came in close contact with those positive students. Students are expected to be cleared within the next few days.
Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson made himself available to those students who are quarantined by virtual calls using Zoom. President Erickson has said they are doing well, but they wanted ice cream and Northern has since provided it.
The University also has been delivering the quarantined students books, supplies, and food to make sure they are as comfortable as they can be.
Foodservice during the virtual first week was all take-out orders, but the dining halls are all open with limited seating available. Temaki & Tea will re-open this weekend, according to Hall.
“We are not having big public events on campus like we normally do. The Northern Center will have public events, but that’s probably about it.”
Monday, students were outdoors as clubs and organizations were recruiting students. Normally a big event, but with all of the precautions taken by the university, they were able to spread out the booths all behind the Olson Library and Jamrich Hall. This event continues Tuesday.