Missouri State updates mask policy for fall, allows freshmen to choose online learning at home

Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 6:39 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3)-- Students around Missouri State’s campus will have a very different look to their faces this year when fall classes start on August 17.

They’ll be covered up.

Over the weekend the Board of Governors voted for even stricter policy concerning face coverings that is more in line with Springfield’s mandated mask ordinance.

Masks will be required to be worn in ALL buildings on MSU’s campus including hallways, elevators, stairwells, classrooms, restrooms, study areas, departmental suites and other common areas.

There are exceptions to indoor masking requirements according to the school’s COVID web page:

“Employees are not required to wear masks in their own private offices within their departmental suites. Additionally, exceptions may be granted by the Provost for particular classes or academic activities for which masking is impracticable or contraindicated, provided that reasonable alternative mitigation strategies are implemented.

Furthermore, while masks are required to be worn in all buildings on campus, they are not required in the following circumstances:

  • While eating in a dining hall (including the Plaster Student Union food court, or the Union Club, the Meyer Library food court, and the Glass Hall food court);
  • While inside residential rooms within the residence halls;
  • While inside apartments located within university apartment buildings; or
  • While exercising at indoor campus exercise facilities, including at Foster Recreation Center, Hammons Student Center, Plaster Stadium, or McDonald Hall.”

Town hall meetings with students helped decide the policy.

“Seventy-two percent of them picked the strictest policy we had out there,” said MSU President Clif Smart. “If our students mask and stay away from the Lake of the Ozarks kind-of-events, we can make it through.”

Another change is that incoming freshman can now choose to take all their courses online, a major turnabout considering the university has long required first-year students to live on-campus unless they live within 45 miles of the school.

“Research shows that students who live on campus through their first two years have better graduation rates, better retention rates and higher GPA’s so we would normally encourage a student to live on campus,” explained Dr. Robert Hornberger, MSU’s Associate VP for Enrollment Management and Services. “But given the situation, if a student feels safer to be at home we want to provide that opportunity.”

Students have until this Friday to make that decision and as of Tuesday afternoon only 18 of the expected 3,000 freshmen have opted for it.

Most want the on-campus experience.

“It was difficult because obviously we’re not in a great place right now,” said Keely Flanagan, a freshman from St. Louis. “But a lot of reasons people go to college is just to get away and be independent. I think it’s beneficial to live on my own and really act like an adult.”

Especially since many of the incoming freshmen had such a chaotic and unsettling final semester of high school.

“I keep telling my parents I don’t even feel like I’m going to college,” said Eliana Cambra, a freshman from Prospect, Connecticut. “I never graduated. It feels like I never finished high school. But being here makes me happy. Even though I didn’t have that (closure to high school) I’m here now and that’s what matters.”

And that’s why these are trying times for everyone.

“After we had moved all our spring classes online the students were pretty tolerant of the situation,” Hornberger said. “But going into the fall I think there’s going to be shorter fuses for everyone involved.”

“I would say the last four months have been the hardest four months of my professional life,” Smart said. “I am confident the next four weeks will be ten times harder. But I go into this with a very positive attitude.”

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