ROCK HILL, S.C. (WBTV) - Two local universities went back to school on Tuesday, including Winthrop University in Rock Hill, which had its first day of in-person learning after two weeks of remote learning.
Students are excited to be back on campus but say they understand they have a huge responsibility this semester.
Students say they learned a lesson watching other North Carolina universities close because of COVID-19 clusters and they’re doing what they can to make sure it doesn’t happen at Winthrop.
“All of the students I’ve talked to, they really want to stay on campus, they are taking precautions, they just don’t want to go home," said Rachel Griffith, a sophomore at Winthrop University. "We want to do everything we can do to stay safe. We don’t want to be like the other schools that get sent home, especially after all the money are paying.
She says students are wearing masks and social distancing. When asked about parties, she said she hadn’t heard of any and didn’t think Winthrop students would risk it.
“People don’t want to have parties, people know Corona is a serious thing and they don’t want to catch it," she said.
It’s been an interesting year for Dr. George Hynd, who became interim president for Winthrop University just two weeks before he ultimately made the decision to close the school in March.
“This is a year like we’ve never every experienced before,” Dr. Hynd said.
“It’s an American tradition to have that college experience, where our students make new friends, they develop new and different social networks, they develop relationships with our faculty. it’s that experience that people are paying for," he said pointing to the reasons it was important to bring students back to campus.
The decision wasn’t made lightly though and came with several guidelines all students, and faculty must follow.
Winthrop is requiring all staff, faculty and students to wear masks or cloth facial coverings in social settings, such as in university buildings, including classrooms, residence halls and dining facilities, and in outdoor spaces on campus where appropriate social distancing cannot be guaranteed.
The university decided to do a blend of in person and online classes for students. But most of the in-person classes are things like performance classes and science labs, which are more effective in person. Lecture-style classes are mostly being kept online.
But not all Universities made the decision to go back. Johnson C. Smith University announced over the summer they would do a completely virtual Fall semester, much to the disappointment for several students.
“I was going to move back on campus and then they made that last call and then I had to move back with my parents so a lot of things were out of wack for me on that," said Destiny Coppage.
Coppage is a senior at the JCSU. She says she wishes she could have been back on campus for her senior year.
“It’s really hard. Especially it being our last year. We were just freshman and now we can’t even see each other for our last year," she said.
Administration for JCSU says it was a tough decision but the right one for their campus.
“After we laid that all on the table we were able to determine that at this very instant it was best to keep our students online," said Davida Haywood, VP of Student Affairs at JCSU.
But that doesn’t mean that Johnson C. Smith University isn’t planning for their next steps. Haywood says there’s a team preparing university plans for a potential return to campus for students in January.