Students plan to return to campus in Fall 2021, await new classroom, campus changes as COVID-19 cases drop


Nina Martinez

Hilltoppers will return to campus for the fall semester as in-person classes resume. Although, the scene will look a little different in the classroom as professors plan teach hybrid classes to keep up with safety protocols.

St. Edward’s University students have a lot to look forward to on campus for the Fall 2021 semester. According to the St. Edward’s administration, the goal of the fall semester is to bring students back onto campus and focus on the experience of living and learning amongst other students, faculty and staff.

On Tuesday, the university held a webinar to answer questions and present plans for next semester.

“This Fall 2021 will be all about the on-campus, in-person living and learning experience and creating a vibrant student experience for everyone,” Vice President of Student Affairs Lisa Kirkpatrick said Tuesday.

St. Edward’s policy surrounding COVID-19 has been updated and includes a vaccination policy. Students returning in the fall semester will be required to submit documentation of COVID-19 vaccination, submit an exemption or submit identification that a student does not want to provide their COVID-19 status to the university. Vaccinated students will still be required to social distance and wear proper face coverings but will not have to provide baseline COVID-19 tests or undergo surveillance screenings throughout the semester.

“We encourage all faculty, staff, as well as general community members and students to get vaccinated when you’re eligible and have an appointment,” Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness and Planning Justin Sloane said on Tuesday.

For students and faculty living in Austin, the university has partnered with Ascension Medical Group in order to provide pre-registration to get a vaccine. Once students are vaccinated, they can transition back into in-person learning. 

Students should expect all courses to have in-person components or be fully in-person. Approximately 85% of course sections will be in-person or blended learning and only about 15% will remain entirely online.  

Blended learning refers to classes that combine online learning and in-person components. Professors may have their own plans for how their blended learning classes will operate, but typically this will mean that a class will be divided into two smaller groups which will take turns meeting online or asynchronously and meeting in-person. All students will have access to professors and advisors in-person.

For students living on campus, the residence halls and apartments will still operate under social distancing regulations. Students will live in single bedrooms with limited bathroom sharing. The prices for housing fall semester will remain fixed from spring semester, and no student will receive an extra charge for double rooms made into singles due to COVID-19 policies. Resident hall amenities such as shared kitchens will reopen and students can visit other residence halls and apartments. Dining halls will re-open across campus as well, with safe distancing enforced.

The Health and Counseling Center (HCC) will have a medical service provider again on campus who will join the current counseling and case management staff. Medical staff and counseling staff will all return. Students will have access to the Recreation and Athletic Center (RAC) as well as in-person health and wellness programming. 

Clubs and other student organizations will be able to gather in-person. Workspaces such as computer labs and tutoring labs will have limited availability. Science labs and art amenities will be available with limited access as well.

Wellness days, which the university implemented to replace longer breaks such as spring break to avoid COVID-19 risks from travel, will become a thing of the past and regular breaks such as Thanksgiving break will make a comeback in the fall. The academic calendar will follow a normal schedule, with the semester beginning on Aug. 23. 

Lastly, the yearly tradition of Hillfest will also commence next semester.

Students can find resources and information about COVID-19 and university policies at Healthy Hilltop