Claire Boughton Hunter Oberst
Sports Editor Managing Executive Editor
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of a full semester of (mostly) uninterrupted learning for college students across the country seemed to be an impossible concept. However, these past 15 weeks marked the second semester Keene State College has maintained hybrid learning during the pandemic.
While the spring semester witnessed several new challenges, such as new COVID variants that had higher transmission rates, Colin Burdick, Construction Clerk of the Works, explained that in his opinion, the college handled this semester better.
“I think we managed really well in the fall and I think we managed better in the spring considering we had more transmissible variants circulating around,” said Burdick. “Everyone has already done a semester of what it is like to be hybrid…”
Burdick also explained that he believed Keene State did better in the spring semester by comparing its protocols and case numbers to other colleges within the state.
“If you compare how Keene State fared in the spring to some of our peer universities, like New England College, Franklin Pierce [and] Plymouth, I mean we didn’t have to go remote,” said Burdick. “We didn’t lock our dorms down. The worst we did was go three or four days with dining commons being take-out only and shut down the rec center for a few days. If that is the most extreme steps we took as an institution, compared to what our peers did, I think we did a great job.”
Keene State College President Dr. Melinda Treadwell shared similar sentiments with Burdick, explaining how good Keene State did when looking at other schools within the region.
“Frankly, we know that it has been a challenge each time when we’ve got these little bumps that occur for us,” said Treadwell. “The students have responded really well. I’ve looked through our total cumulative positive case rate data, we’re still, of any campus that has surveyed all of its students, the safest in the region.”
Treadwell explained that going into the semester, she had some worries about the students’ response to the new safety protocols and how they would be able to deal with isolations and quarantines as they came.
“The big stress for me was: would we be able to manage, because we knew we would have cases,” said Treadwell. “And the good news on the other side is yes, we have been able to manage. I think the challenges, it’s really hard to be in quarantine, it’s very hard to be in isolation, I have been concerned about our students, faculty and staff who have been affected by that kind of isolated environment and proud of people being able to be resilient through this.”
Treadwell continued, saying that the student body’s resilience was something she has been proud of the entire semester from the first week to the last.
“I think it is a statement about our students and your willingness to adhere to all of these restrictions that we know made a difference in transferring COVID and we had a very low transmission rate and we had a rapid response group and students actually adhered to the quarantine and isolation protocols. Our data would tell us that our students were rockstars,” said Treadwell.
COVID-19 Project Team Leader Dr. Wayne Hartz said that despite the success of the school in handling the pandemic, there were still areas the school could improve.
“If there’s one thing that I think we can still do better on, it’s encouraging people to get vaccinated and make the vaccination process easier,” Hartz said. “Even if it’s at Krif Road, a seven minute walk, that seems to be a planet away…”
Hartz added that the school thought hard about ways to promote vaccination on campus, but he wishes the school could have done more.
“I think that, I guess if I had one regret that would be it,” Hartz said. “I wish somehow we had cracked that nut.”
President Treadwell said it has been a challenge to create a viable learning and student engagement environment, but she is proud of the overall result from this past academic year.
“If I breathe for a minute and look back at what everyone has had to do, it’s monumental and we all should be a little tired,” Treadwell said. “But I’m proud of it even though it was a challenge and I think we have adapted really well and I think that will change how we co-create knowledge in the future.”
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