By Emma Dannenfelser
The University of Arkansas- Fort Smith is planning on a fully in-person fall semester now that the state is offering a COVID-19 vaccine to anyone over age 16.
University of Arkansas- Fort Smith has nearly 7,000 students and has about four active COVID-19 cases on campus.
Dave Stevens, Dean of Students and Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Enrollment, said the majority of the school’s classes are currently online only. However, Stevens said in a phone interview that enrollment has been down slightly since the start of the pandemic and that students have become exhausted by online education.
“We may have to pivot and change our plans in regard to COVID,” Stevens said, “But if things continue to improve the way they have been improving we are hopeful students will want to return to our campus and participate”.
The university recently hosted a drive-through vaccine clinic at the Stubblefield Center and administered a total of 448 doses to students, alumni and community members.
The transition to online education has undeniably been difficult for educators as well. Julie Wright, an assistant professor of Accounting, said she was forced to learn large amounts of new and difficult technology quickly.
“It was like drinking water out of a fire hydrant,” Wright said in a phone interview.
According to Rachel Putman, the associate director of Strategic Communications, the university will continue to require students to wear masks on campus through the end of the spring semester, despite Governor Hutchinson ending the statewide mandate in March.
“Following the end of the semester, the university will evaluate the status of vaccinations, case numbers on campus and case numbers and hospitalizations in the region, and consult with the Arkansas Department of Health and the CDC to determine if masks continue to be necessary for the health and safety of our students,” Putman said in an email interview.