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Education

TCU Students Come Back To Campus, With Pandemic Precautions In Place

In this photo, a chalkboard sign with the words "TCU masks are here" stands on the sidewalk outside a store.
Miranda Suarez
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KERA
A sign outside a store selling Texas Christian University gear advertises TCU-themed masks. Face coverings are required on campus as students return to in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s move-in week at Texas Christian University, and students are coming back to campus under new precautions the school hopes will keep everyone healthy during the pandemic.

Classes for this unusual semester start a week early, on Aug. 17. According to the school’s COVID-19 guidelines, mask-wearing is required almost everywhere.

TCU also gave professors the choice to teach in-person or virtually, and students had the option to take all their classes online.

In a recent talk with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini said a small number of students chose to stay at home and learn virtually.

“Most of them wanted to be on campus and either be in-person or be virtual,” Boschini said.

Other North Texas colleges, like the University of North Texas and SMU, are taking a similar approach, mixing in-person and online learning. Paul Quinn College in Dallas is going fully online.

TCU students have been moving into the dorms all week. On Wednesday afternoon, masked families shopped for T-shirts and other school spirit gear at the campus bookstore, and students strolled around the sunny green campus.

Like many of her classmates, freshman Lillie Johnston had to finish high school virtually.

"Doing everything on Zoom and not really being able to connect with any of my peers was really tough for me," she said.

Even though only 1 out of her 6 classes will be taught in-person, Johnston said living on campus will help her make those connections. But she is nervous about getting sick.

“All I can do is just wear a mask and take every precaution that I can. Wash my hands and just social distance and everything,” she said. “I feel like that's all you can do, especially when you're living with someone, and you’re living in such close quarters as well."

A photo of a young woman with blonde hair in a purple TCU shirt standing on a tree-shaded sidewalk.
Credit Miranda Suarez / KERA
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KERA
Lillie Johnston is about to start her freshman year at TCU. She decided to live on campus despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

If a student does get sick, TCU has COVID-19 tests and contact tracers ready, as well as isolation rooms for students who test positive. And to prevent the spread of disease, big events like homecoming and family weekend are cancelled.

Several students, including freshman Jack Barron, said they came to campus anyway because they want the full college experience.

“My parents are paying for four years, not three,” he said.

Ray Cartwright has been waiting for his TCU experience. At 33, he just transferred from Tarrant County College, and TCU is his dream school.

“Since I am a later-in-life student taking my own journey, it only makes sense for me to start under some kind of weird circumstance with my first semester,” he joked.

Cartwright said he wasn’t aware that all-online learning was an option, but he wanted to be in the classroom either way. And if in-person classes get cancelled like they did in the spring, he’ll handle it.

"Since I dealt with that in the spring semester, I mean, just kind of roll with the punches again, and make the best of the situation,” he said.

Another major change the school made was compressing the semester. While college semesters usually end right before Christmas, TCU’s final exams will finish before Thanksgiving. It’s a move to avoid any disease students might bring back after traveling for the holidays.

TCU Chancellor Boschini told Mayor Price he’s hoping the school can make it through November “in health.”

“I’m praying we can start next January like this was all a bad nightmare,” he said.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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