SSU students feel ready for return


PORTSMOUTH — It was a moment of panic when Shawnee State University student Teagan Smith received word that campus would be shut down for the remainder of the semester. One of his classes still required him to report to the classroom and he was not sure how it would continue remotely.

“It was kind of a stressful and hectic time,” said Smith, a rising junior studying plastics engineering technology. “I had to get everything out of Shawnee State in a timely manner.”

A native of Cuyahoga County, where the county’s board of health reports 5,750 confirmed coronavirus cases, Smith said he has been social distancing and isolating since he returned home in April. Now that SSU plans on having students on-campus for the fall semester, he feels comfortable about returning and will continue to take the same precautions.

The university released its return protocol last week, a phased reopening with guidelines for students, visitors and staff. Currently in phase two, “limited public services” have been allowed for business, administrative support, academic, and student services since June 29.

While SSU plans on having a semester with athletic and student events, it will be far from business as usual when students return Aug. 24. As is required in Portsmouth, students will be required to wear masks and to practice physical distancing in the classroom, Morris University Center, Bears Den, Clark Memorial Library, and outdoor and indoor meeting spaces. Plexiglas barriers and face shields for instructors will be put-in-place in the classrooms, which will have limited attendance to allow for distancing, for hearing impaired students.

Rising junior Kaitlynn Hintz also feels prepared to return and sees the protocol as well-thought-out. Still, she would like to see more updates from the university.

“Most of us know that things will not be the way they usually are and that’s fine as long they are keeping us safe,” said Hintz, a welcome week ambassador. “I know that people feel like they (SSU) are not really communicating with us, but I think that’s because they don’t know where to go for the information.”

More classes will be available online and through sprint courses in the case of an outbreak leading to another transition to online classes. When classes moved to online in late March, Smith felt he still received the same quality of education.

“It wasn’t all that hard because we continued the lectures online and really being in the classroom setting was not so much different from what was being taught,” said Smith. “I wasn’t in any art class where I had to do drawings, so it was not a huge difference to me.”

Online classes proved to be a mixed bag for Hintz, who experienced difficulties in her mathematics class.

“My professor took forever to get anything online,” said Hintz, who majors in social sciences.”I would worry for some classes…., but since they had to go through this last semester, I feel like it would go a whole lot better.”

One question that remained for Smith would be whether students will return to campus after Thanksgiving. Other state schools, like Ohio State University and Miami University, will have their students finish the semester from home after the holiday break.

“We haven’t heard anything about that, so that’s something I’d like to hear a little bit more about,” said Smith. “That’s one thing I’m still concerned about because, when a lot of people get sick, it’s from traveling.”

According to SSU’s 2020-2021 academic calendar, classes will resume Nov. 28, finish classes Dec. 4, and conduct final exams between Dec. 5 and 11. The calendar plans on having these final two weeks to be completed on-campus.

Director of Marketing and Communications Elizabeth Blevins said while all students will be expected to return for the final week of classes, some will be able to return home as early as Dec. 5 if their professors will be conducting exams online or in another format which does not require physical attendance.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at pkeckreports@gmail.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.