Mixed feelings as local college kids return, or don't, to school

Online classes no substitute for campus life, say many

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Henry Weldon

Contributing Reporter

With summer winding down and the school year quickly approaching, it's not only school administrators who are trying to decide whether students will return to the classroom for the fall semester.

Many local college students attend schools located in COVID-19 hotspots which could interfere with in-person learning. Some college students are apprehensive about taking classes in the midst of a pandemic.

"Since my classes went online, it was hard to focus on academics," said Bonmoo Lee, a University of Southern California student.

Lee, 20, who graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School in 2017, heard his school make the announcement that classes will be held online this fall. He said he would prefer classes be in-person so he could spend more time around other students and professors.

"College is not all about studying," Lee said. "Humans are a social animal, therefore students will have a better college experience with classes being held in-person."

While USC, which is in Los Angeles, might be in a hotspot, other schools are not.

"I have mild asthma so I'm kind of hesitant to go back," said Cabral Johnson, a University of Illinois student.

Champaign, which is roughly 150 miles south of Oak Park, is not having as bad of an outbreak with the virus. Johnson, 20, who graduated from OPRF in 2018, is hoping that campus opens up soon so he can return to classes, he said.

Casey McCormick, 20, who graduated from Fenwick High School in 2018, also hopes that he can return to his campus soon, he said.

McCormick attends the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. He's been home since March and is eager to get back.

"It's distracting being at home where it's not as strict to complete all the work," McCormick said.

Even here in Chicago where there still many COVID cases, Saint Xavier University announced it will hold in-person classes in the fall.

"I personally would much rather have another semester or two of virtual classes than face catching this horrible virus and the repercussions that come with it," said Bethany Bura, 18, a 2019 graduate of Trinity High School who is a student at SXU.

Michelle Brown, 18, who just graduated from OPRF this year, plans on starting her freshman year at the University of Missouri.

"I want the number of cases to start to decrease again so the university won't close," Brown said. "I just hope everyone follows the guidelines and we are able to have a fun freshman year."

Brown said that ending her senior year of high school online was difficult.

"Taking online classes during the last few months of high school was horrible," Brown said. "I really didn't like it."

Despite all of the odd circumstances, she can't wait to begin college.

"I am very excited," Brown said.

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