SPOKANE, Wash. — As the COVID-19 pandemic raged throughout the year, university leaders across the Inland Northwest spent their late Spring and Summer months forming a plan to safely teach college students during the Fall 2020 semester.
Now, with holiday season on the horizon, the plans from Eastern Washington’s biggest colleges all include the same message: “If you go home for the holidays, stay home.”
That was a key factor in Washington State University’s earliest plan, says Phil Weiler, Vice President for Marketing and Communications for the university. Weiler said WSU built their semester over the summer to be as close to all-online as possible, with just a handful of classes requiring in-person learning for specialized technology or equipment.
But for the final few weeks, Weiler said, every class will make the shift online for final instruction and exams. And for that reason, he said WSU has encouraged students to remain home and not travel back to Pullman until Spring instruction begins in 2021.
"This is going to be a tough holiday season, there's no doubt about it,” Weiler said. “We're not going to be able to do the things that we traditionally do, but we need to make this sacrifice this year, so that we have the ability to get together with family and friends next year and in years after that."
In Spokane, a similar message came from Eastern Washington University, who also moved a majority of their classes online to accommodate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Final classes and final exams will all be held online, says Dave Meany, EWU’s Director of Communications.
For Gonzaga, it’s a similar message as Thanksgiving approaches, although the path to arrive at that decision was much different.
Gonzaga elected to allow students to return for the Fall 2020 semester, with a part-distanced/part-in-person plan that enforced strict guidelines for students, staff and faculty on campus.
"I give a lot of credit to students,” said Charlita Shelton, the Special Consultant to University President, Thayne McCulloh. “If you walk around the Gonzaga campus, as an open campus, you will see all students in masks, you will see faculty in masks, you will see employees in masks. I would say all in all, for months and months we have taken this very seriously, and will continue to take it seriously in terms of mitigating this virus."
And as part of their plan, Shelton says all classes after the Thanksgiving holiday will be held completely online, to give students the option to stay home if they’d like.
As for Gonzaga’s large international student population, Shelton says the vast majority of Gonzaga’s international student population has committed to staying in Spokane, and respecting Washington’s pandemic restrictions for as long as is necessary.
But for any student— Shelton says— who decides to travel for the holidays, Gonzaga has requested that student quarantines for 14 days before turning to the campus for a fresh start in the Spring of 2021.