By Sabrina Edwards
Today marks the start of a new semester at Grand Rapids Community College, students are coming back to campus after the two semesters of distance learning. While the majority of students will have virtual learning or online courses, there are classes that are being held in-person or are hybrid, there are 956 online classes, 307 hybrid, 209 virtual, 190 in-person, and 12 open learning classes being offered this fall according to GRCC’s course search.
Monday afternoon there were noticeably less students on campus this semester in comparison to last fall. There was no wait to park in the Ransom Street ramp, students weren’t crowding the halls, and causing the commotion that was previously the norm on a first day back.
“It’s so good to have life back on campus, with students around,” said Lina Blair GRCC’s Director of Student Life and Conduct. “It definitely feels different but it still feels like the first day of school.”
To be on campus students are being asked to follow social distancing guidelines and wear masks. GRCC is also requiring everyone to fill out a health screening form, this can be accessed two ways, via the Rave Guardian app or a form on the online center.
“Masks are required,” Blair said. ”We’re distributing them… to anybody who needs one.”
The masks are being distributed at the Information Station, Student Life Office, and at the GRCC Police Department.
“It seems like students are really following that, there haven’t been too many that haven’t had a mask on,” Blair said.
Walking around campus Monday it did seem like most people were following the guidelines, however, not everyone is. Those who don’t have their masks on will be asked to put it back on inside campus buildings, if you don’t have one, one will be provided.
“It feels exciting, but kind of lonely because there’s not a lot of people here,” said Emily Pineda, a 21-year-old GRCC student who’s taking three hybrid classes this semester.
Pineda said she was nervous to come back onto campus, but because her classes only meets twice a month feels like it’ll be fine to be on campus this fall.
GRCC has installed more hand sanitizer stations around the campus and now provides disinfectant spray in public seating areas to clean your area before use.
“I’m a little nervous because I feel like I broke so many social distancing rules,” said Gabi Salazar, a 20-year-old GRCC student when talking about trying to maintain a six-foot distance from everyone on campus. “It’s really hard with hallways. As long as everyone is responsible and does what they need to do, I think it’ll be fine.”
While Salazar has to be on campus for a certain computer class, she said the new dividers installed between computers makes her feel more comfortable being on campus.
GRCC has added many signs around campus to remind students to socially distance themselves from others. They have also removed chairs and tables in public areas to separate seats in order to follow the guidelines. Also, there are arrows on every door showing which side to walk in and which side to walk out to streamline traffic.
“I missed being on campus,” said Biola Zuniga, a 19-year-old GRCC student. “I only have one in-person class, which is piano, and that’s only because there’s eight people in the class.”
The GRCC students who were on campus Monday seemed to be happy to be able to return to campus this fall, and seem to be willing to follow the new health guidelines.
“Honestly, it doesn’t feel all that different,” said Jacob Vandam, a 21-year-old GRCC student. “I’m excited to be back. Being on campus gives me a sense of normalcy.”