Monday was the first day of the fall semester at the University of Alaska Southeast and operations look a little closer to normal this year.
The University of Alaska Southeast campus in Juneau welcomed about 140 students at its new student orientation last week. The event was held in person this time instead of over Zoom, like last fall — where just dozens of students participated.
Lori Klein is Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management & Student Affairs at the school. She said they’re offering a mix of online and in-person courses, whereas most classes were online last year.
“There’s a lot of great energy on campus today,” Klein said. “It feels really good. The students are really engaged with each other and with the staff. So here we are – we’re off and getting ready to go and very excited.”
Masks are still required at school-sponsored events and on campus — except inside students’ private residences — and social distancing is encouraged when possible. All 200 or so students living on campus were required to get a COVID-19 vaccine unless they’ve been approved for an exemption.
“This is a process we have available for all of our vaccines,” Klein said. “If you live on campus, there’s a wide number of vaccines that we require you to have, not just COVID. But we follow the State of Alaska religious and medical exemption process. So students fill out a form and have it notarized and provide that.”
More students are able to live on campus this year, but some rooms are still reserved for “quarantine housing.”
“We’ve carved out housing available to relocate students who have been exposed to someone who is COVID positive or who get sick themselves,” Klein said. “[It’s] a space on campus where we can still provide them all of our services, but it allows them to either wait out test results or isolate, should they test positive.”
Nearly 1,200 students are enrolled this year, down about 5% from last fall. Klein said there was a bit of an artificial bump in enrollment at that time, due to COVID.
“We think the difference is that so many people waited until the middle of August last year to make decisions,” Klein said. “When schools in other places decided to go online, a lot of students ended up staying in Juneau and so we had a huge influx of students who eventually went to other places and we don’t have that this year.”
She said students were very compliant with COVID-19 mitigation measures last year and the school experienced very few outbreaks. Klein hopes that trend will continue this semester.