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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

Kent State Students Offer Perspective on Returning to Class During Pandemic

Students at Kent State University are experiencing a fall semester that differs from the traditional because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

It's a couple of weeks into the fall semester on Kent’s main campus. While some classes are being held in-person, in many ways the place feels empty and it certainly looks different.

Due to Gov. DeWine’s recent announcement declaring Portage County a COVID Risk Level 3 Red status, Kent State is implementing further changes including switching campus dining services to take-out only and restricting non-resident visitors from the residence halls.

But these changes do not affect in-person classes which will continue as usual unless the instructor decides otherwise.

Journalism students Jay Shah and Kelsey Paulus are interning with WKSU this semester. They give us a glimpse into how students are handling the challenges created by the pandemic.

Within the first few weeks of the fall semester, it is evident that Kent State University's main campus has seen some changes because of coronavirus. While some classes are being held in person, in many ways the place feels empty, and it certainly looks different. There are very few people, and what’s even stranger are the empty parking lots.

Four days after the semester started, the university issued new guidance that all gatherings of more than 10 people be held virtually, including university meetings and student organization activities. 


A saxophonist for the Marching Golden Flashes
Credit ANDREW PAA, Marketing Assistant, School of Music / WKSU
A saxophonist for the Marching Golden Flashes band, rehearses with the modified mask and instrument cover.

However, this does not include marching band. Miles Powell is a freshman at Kent State and is part of the Marching Golden Flashes drumline. He said the marching band is to remain distanced at all times during practice, and everyone is required to wear masks.

"I know for the winds, they have these masks. It seems to be based off of some research study," Powell said. "They take the normal, disposable masks, and they've cut holes in them so they can still play with the masks on."

Forty percent of classes are still being taught traditionally. This was decided based on available space and the need for in-person instruction. Before coming to campus, students were required to sign the Flashes Safe Seven pledge, which includes wearing a mask, washing hands thoroughly, sanitizing areas, and keeping 6 feet apart from others. 

Returning to campus is not a concern for some students, including freshman Dale Sentman. His Calculus III class is taught in person, and this provides a sense of normalcy for him.

"My home life is so hectic, and the internet is so poor that there would have been a fair amount of distractions from the coursework," he said. 

These classes are also offered virtually for students who cannot attend on campus. Classrooms have been modified to space students apart from each other, as well as reduce the occupancy level. Some classes have also been made into hybrid versions to connect both virtually and in person, such as senior Hannah Miles' challenge-based innovation class. 

"[On the first day] we had probably less than 20 students in there," she said. "The chairs were marked which could be seated and which were going to stay empty, so each seat was very spread out from each other."

Miles said the students in the lecture hall were required to log into Zoom to stay connected with the students who were coming to class remotely. 

As a fashion student there are hands-on classes Miles takes that require special equipment. 

"The fashion school has made a lot of accommodations for booking private space, social distance. And I think that will help some students for sure because I know a lot of people don't have the equipment we need in our apartment or dorm, so it's helpful we're able to go in and book a private table," she said. 

Unlike some other colleges, Kent State is not testing all students for COVID-19. It's relying on students to self-report positive results and is offering testing at the DeWeese Health Center for those who have symptoms. 

"The anxiety about the virus, for me, comes for other people who would be more at risk. And that's why I take the mask-wearing very seriously because I wouldn't be considered high-risk," Miles said. "So I could potentially be a carrier and have no symptoms." 

Every Monday, Kent State updates its online Coronavirus Dashboard. According to the university’s Coronavirus Response page, in-person and remote instruction will continue through Nov. 20. After Thanksgiving break, everything will be remote for the rest of the semester. 

The University requests those who fit the following criteria to contact the COVID Response Team at the DeWeese Health Center by calling 330-672-2525: anyone who has been diagnosed, has had symptoms, has been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed, has traveled outside of the country, or has come from a state with higher than 15 percent of positive cases.