Western is one of many public universities in the state that made a statement during the week of May 12 regarding how fall quarter will operate.
Paul Cocke, Western’s university communications director said the school plans to make an array of accommodations to best prepare for fall quarter. This includes canceling or severely limiting large events, such as athletics or performing arts programs, deep cleaning, wearing masks on campus and setting aside areas on campus housing for students who have to quarantine.
“While there is still much contingency planning underway, our current expectation is that fall quarter will start in-person as scheduled on September 23 with a hybrid approach that allows for a mix of online and in-person classes,” said Western President Sabah Randhawa in a May 12 press release.
Baillie Bartle, a first-year Western student, said that while some students, like herself, have an overall negative opinion about online courses, she has also managed to find some of the good qualities that might make things easier come fall quarter, such as how professors have become more accommodating.
“I feel like the professors have been pretty accommodating and are extremely kind and lenient when it comes to students’ work,” Bartle said. “I’m really thankful for some of my professors, cause since I’ve been back home I’ve had more responsibilities, like helping out with my sister, chores and other work. It’s been busier than you’d expect it to be and my professors are understanding of that, which is great.”
Looking at other schools, like the University of Washington, there is more uncertainty as to how they plan to handle fall quarter. UW, located in Seattle with a student population of 47,400, has said it plans to have larger classes, such as online lectures with smaller sections, like labs, to be held in-person with added social distancing precautions. The university stated they’d provide more information in mid-June to early July.
Tyler Slama, a third-year engineering student at UW, said that while he hasn’t been preparing for fall quarter, he feels that spring quarter has been the worst-case scenario for him as he finds it hard to focus without in-person communication and expects for things to only improve.
Central Washington University, located in Ellensburg with a student population of 12,342 students, is reportedly planning on making social distancing a top priority, creating lanes for entering and exiting buildings, moving classes to bigger rooms and sanitizing the buildings more frequently.
Christian Castilleja, a third-year at Central, majoring in event management, said he’s already planning for his fall quarter. While picking up supplies for the next school year, he said that he plans to buy extra gloves and masks to have at all times. Castilleja is concerned if it’s even safe for the county to open back up, nonetheless his school.
“I’m most concerned about the county itself more than the school. Kittitas County has had at least 54 confirmed cases, so this could influence the school if anyone comes back or not,” Castilleja said.
Cocke said that increasing access to the health center is a big priority for the university, with a focus on telemedicine and the respiratory clinic, which is located at the campus services building. This allows for better preservation of personal protective equipment and better protects those at a higher risk. However, Cocke said respiratory testing is not equivalent to testing for COVID-19 because a respiratory test cannot differentiate between COVID-19 and other illnesses. Instead, a respiratory test will be taken, and from there it can be sent to the county to get a test if it’s believed to be COVID-19.
As for Bartle, she said she doesn’t know what her fall quarter will look like until her plans on returning to work are solidified.
“I don’t think anyone really knows or is prepared for what might happen,” Bartle said. “I just try and take it one day at a time”