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What UNG's return will look like in fall 2021 and what students have to say about it
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A University of North Georgia Gainesville students walks through campus Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021, in the chilly air. The university receives $6.8 million in CARES ACT funding for students. - photo by Scott Rogers

Nearly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down universities and in-person activities, the University of North Georgia intends to return to full in-person learning in fall 2021. 

UNG President Bonita Jacobs announced the plans for summer and fall based on increases in COVID-19 vaccinations and guidelines from the University System of Georgia. 

"With vaccine availability expected to expand over the next several weeks for more members of the UNG community, I am optimistic about fully resuming on-campus operations and activities by this fall,” Jacobs said in an email to students on Thursday, March 4. 

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be administered to 100 UNG students and faculty on March 10 on the Gainesville campus. Vaccinations will occur, by appointment only, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. The appointment portal opened on March 4 at 8 a.m., and was filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

The first round of vaccinations for the UNG community came in January.

The fall semester will see the return of  in-person classes and on-campus student experiences and events, the university says. UNG will keep some online classes, “where they have improved access for students and where they are pedagogically appropriate,” according to the email.

If necessary, UNG will be prepared to pivot to hybrid and online modes of instruction, the university’s email said.

A mix of hybrid and in-person courses will remain during the 2021 summer semester, according to the email. Based on student demand, UNG will also offer several online courses during the summer. COVID-19 regulations, such as required face coverings, social distancing and reporting positive COVID-19 test results, will remain in place, Jacobs’ email said.

"I know this past year has been difficult and, at times, overwhelming. In true UNG fashion, our community has stepped up in amazing ways to address challenging and complex problems with innovative solutions and to support one another with empathy and integrity," Jacobs said. "The lessons learned from our experiences this past year will help inform our way forward, and I am grateful for your commitment." 

UNG junior Ana Navarro said she is “beyond relieved” to hear that her senior year will see a return to in-person learning. Navarro, who said she struggles with hybrid learning, feels her tuition money is best spent on in-person classes and activities. 

On Tuesday, March 2, President Joe Biden announced the country will have enough vaccines for every adult by the end of May. Navarro said she’s confident that with enough vaccinations, UNG students can make a safe return to the classrooms. 

However, UNG sophomore Tom Reeves is skeptical. He said he’s unconvinced that enough UNG students will be vaccinated by August in order to avoid a spike in cases. Reeves currently attends two of his classes in-person and said he regularly hears students talk about “going back to normal.” Reeves worries this push for normalcy can result in COVID-19 precautions slipping and cases rising. 

“I’d love to return in August and pretend the pandemic never happened. I’m just weary that we won’t have enough vaccines to make that happen,” Reeves said. “But here’s hoping.”

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