CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Students and cadets made their return to class Wednesday at The Citadel as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state. This coming just a day after new COVID-19 measures were put in place by school leadership.
The return to campus comes with changes and safety protocols including a mask requirement in some academic buildings but students were back in the classroom for the first time in more than a year. Officials say they are for hopeful for a year as close to normal as possible.
“A lot of the cadets are excited, a lot of cadets are kind of up in the air about what to do,” says Cadet Samantha Walton. “Yesterday we were given a mask mandate so a lot of cadets were sad but a lot are kind of flexible.”
School leadership implemented a mask mandate hours before students returned to the classroom on Tuesday night in several academic buildings. Interim Vice President of Communications Cardon Crawford says it’s an effort to keep infection rates low.
“Were going to do everything we can to have a normal experience as much as you can have a normal experience within the COVID-19 framework and for us that means we can stay in the classroom,” says Crawford.
While masks are required in certain areas, vaccines remain only a recommendation for cadets and are being provided to those who want one. Even though COVID-19 had brought noticeable changes, Crawford says it’s all about finding a balance.
“People might have very good reasons why they may not want to get vaccinated,” says Crawford. “We’re doing everything we can to get as many people vaccinated as we can while understanding people have rights to say you know what I prefer not to have a vaccine.”
For students and staff alike, adjustments to learning may be needed but it’s something The Citadel is prepared for.
“Now we have the capability to go to the hybrid learning environment should we because a lot of us are military planners here and it’s a contingency,” says Crawford.
“Which I think is great because some people don’t know when you’re going to test positive or if you come in close contact with someone because if you do come in close contact you have to quarantine for ten days,” says Walton.
There are obvious obstacles facing students and staff but a return to in-person learning is something they’ve been waiting for, for 18 months.
“I think this year we have a better way of controlling that hey we’re going to wear masks still but probably be able to do things together,” says Walton. “I think that’s a great thing because bonding is really what makes the school.”
“We think as always these cadets will respond to a challenge,” says Crawford. “They did last year and we think they will respond to the challenge this year.”
Campus leadership plans to re-assess the mask mandate and look at COVID-19 trends on September 7th to decide whether or not to leave in the requirement in place or remove it.