Temple students, faculty await return to classrooms

Around 13 percent of classes will be held in person for the Spring 2021 semester.

A person enters the Boyer College of Music and Dance on Jan. 17. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Benjamin Rapp felt isolated in the fall. 

With online classes, Rapp, a junior data science major, missed the classroom interactions he had in prior semesters, he said. 

“I found it difficult to have no connection with my classmates and professors,” Rapp said.  

Today, students return to Main Campus classrooms for the Spring 2021 semester after almost all classes were moved to an online format just one week after opening some for the Fall 2020 semester. Although students and faculty are eager to safely return to in-person classrooms, some are hesitant due to rising cases of COVID-19 in Philadelphia and across the United States. 

Temple University is holding a mix of in-person and online courses for the spring semester, according to a statement released on Nov. 2, 2020, by President Richard Englert.

An estimated 13  percent of undergraduate and graduate-level classes will be held in person, as hybrid or as fieldwork, said Raymond Betzner, a spokesperson for the university. The remaining 87 percent of classes will be online. 

The Fall 2020 semester began with around 75 percent of classes online and 25 percent in person, but after Sept. 3, 2020, when COVID-19 cases on campus rose to more than 200, only around five percent of classes remained in person, he added.

As of Jan. 18, there were 45 active COVID-19 cases among Temple students and employees, The Temple News reported

As of Jan. 15, Philadelphia had a seven-day average of 613 cases per day, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported

Students attending in-person classes are required to be tested twice a week, and faculty and staff working in person are eligible to be tested twice a week, The Temple News reported.  

In-person classes will be held in large, open classrooms with desks spaced at least six feet apart from each other. Students are required to wear masks in the classroom, Betzner said.

“There are about 250 classrooms that are useful on campus currently,” he added. “We can keep students six feet apart, a faculty member at least six feet if not more away from everybody else and we can get people in and out of the buildings safely.”

Matthew Newby, a physics professor, believes his classroom will be safe with social distancing and increased testing, he said.

Newby is looking forward to returning to teaching one in-person class because it’s more familiar to students and instructors, he added.

“Faculty have a lot of experience doing this in person, but only about a year of experience doing this online,” Newby said.

Some students are looking forward to being back in the classroom, hoping that with COVID-19 safety measures, like increased testing for students who are taking in-person classes, in-person courses will last for the duration of the semester. 

Online classes felt impersonal to Sydney Kimbell, a freshman data science major, because she wasn’t able to meet her professors and peers face to face. This semester, an in-person course will help Kimbell structure her schedule, she said.

“My biggest challenge was having the discipline with online coursework to keep doing the work,” Kimbell added. “Having the structure of an in-person course will help me concentrate more.”

Bruce Hardy, a communication and social influence professor, will be on campus three times a week for two in-person classes. For both of his classes, he will give students the option to participate virtually via Zoom if they are uncomfortable coming back into the classroom or feel sick, Hardy said.

Hardy was tested for COVID-19 yesterday at 10 a.m. in the basement of Paley Hall and is hopeful that with increased testing, classes can remain in person this semester, he said.

“I’m optimistic but again we are prepared for a quick transition to virtuals if that is what the university deems needs to happen,” Hardy added.  

Sam Cashion, a freshman technical production and management major, is reluctant to take her one in-person class this spring. While it’s important to be on campus for hands-on learning, she is nervous about staying safe, she said. 

“We want to make sure that everybody’s staying healthy and taking all the precautions we need to take,” Cashion added. 

Rapp, who took all online classes last semester, is relieved to be in the classroom for his Introduction to Modern Physics courses, but has some concerns about returning because students are traveling back to campus from various states and cities for the semester, he said.

“While I do trust that most people have been safe while they’re home, you never know,” Rapp added. 

Kimbell is optimistic, hoping social distancing in classrooms and an increased testing plan will help students and faculty stay safe during this semester, she said.

“My recommendation for students in online courses is to stay disciplined and make a plan or routine, for those in in-person classes to stay safe and follow guidelines Temple has set in place to keep us safe,” she added. 

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