Bethel University releases updated reopening plan

MISHAWAKA, Ind. - As schools are set to reopen in August, many school districts and local universities have released their reopening plans to keep students safe.

Bethel University just released it’s updated plans for the school year Friday.

The university will open to face-to-face instruction with Livestream options as well for students if needed.

One of the bigger changes made in this updated reopening plan is that masks are required, rather than recommended on campus including in classrooms.

Students and staff are set to come back to Bethel University’s campus Aug. 18 and the semester will run through to Thanksgiving without breaks.

There are mask and social distancing requirements as well as increased sanitization efforts on campus.

“Some of the new protocols involve reconfiguration of common spaces, residence halls classrooms, our chapel, dining commons, just making sure those spaces are set up in ways to allow for natural physical distancing," Shawn Holtgren, the Vice President of Student Development at Bethel said.

When it comes to classrooms, students will use the same seat all semester and live streaming equipment is being installed to allow for virtual learning options if needed

Campus housing is also being set aside as quarantine isolation centers for students and staff who contract the virus.

Student housing will continue, but it will be separated by floors or pods.

“We’re treating each floor, like a family unit, so, for instance, we have chapel so for chapel we created just one experience a week three different times so, on Mondays, all first-floor dorms will go to the chapel," he said.

Carrie Cannon is the mother of an incoming freshman and said her son’s safety is top of mind.

“Obviously when you do look at the big numbers, you do get nervous but I also look at the social and emotional part as a parent - this past spring so he’s a senior so he missed out on those things," she said.

Neighbors nearby agree saying it’s just time for students to get back to face to face instruction

“I believe that when you’re in school you want to do your very best to get that education," Frank Price said. “I think if the kids just use common sense they will be fine."

And today, Bethel’s orientation gave some parents peace of mind.

“I definitely noticed today the 6 feet apart, different people serving us lunch had the proper PPE equipment on – that was impressive. When we went in classrooms everything was 6 feet apart., everyone obviously had masks on so that was just reassuring to me. We can’t avoid everything as parents when we send our kids out to these colleges or k-12 establishment however we are trying to do our best," Cannon said.

Now we have seen that not everyone complies with social distancing guidelines and mask mandates but officials at Bethel are hopeful their students will take the right steps to stay healthy.

“On a campus like Bethel, we’re small enough, it is more like a family feel, we often talk like that and it is a little easier to address some of those anxieties as well to enforce some of the things that we are implementing because we do it in a way that’s relational," Holtgren said.

And if there is a breakout of COVID on campus, there are measures in place to prevent further spread.

“If there would be cases related to the university we do have a number of protocols in place. A number of residence halls have a quarantine space if a student might have been exposed, we do have 3 of our campus houses reserved as isolation spaces for students that might contract the virus and not be able to go home – international students where we could use that space," he said.

ABC57 is launching a new school reopening series called the learning curve that starts this coming Monday.

It’ll be both on-air and online with all the information you need before school starts.

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