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'It’s Definitely Worrisome.' Miami Dade College Students Slowly Return To Campus

The Miami Dade College Kendall Campus was empty last Wednesday afternoon.
Darren Lyn
The Miami Dade College Kendall Campus was empty last Wednesday afternoon.

At the end of September, Miami Dade College (MDC) announced the return to in-person instruction. The student body responded with a Change.org petition to stay remote, which gathered more than 18,000 signatures. Despite resistance, the school decided to continue its plans to have students on campus.

When students registered for fall classes, some courses were still scheduled to have in-person meeting times if the school transitioned back onto campus. Most of these classes ended up becoming blended courses, where students are split into groups that take turns between in-person and online instruction.

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Laura Bosi, a 19-year-old business student, is taking both fully online and blended classes.

Bosi said she didn’t feel like she had a choice about returning to campus. Many of the fully-remote class times conflicted with other courses. Staying online would have delayed her transfer to another school after completing her associate’s degree.

For her, there’s not a major difference between learning in-person and remotely, since the majority of her classes aren’t hands-on. However, her teachers are still requiring in-person attendance on her scheduled day.

Bosi said she doesn’t see the point of forcing students to come in for in-person instruction if a portion of the class is joining in online.

“I definitely think it’s a risk to go back on campus,” Bosi said. “Our school isn’t providing testing for the students. A lot of people can be asymptomatic.”

MDC’s safety protocol includes requiring face masks and establishing social distancing metrics throughout the campus. Students have daily temperature checks at the entrance of buildings and are given wristbands that grant them access to the campus for the rest of the day.

Few students are seen roaming the Kendall Campus. Darren Lyn, a nursing student, said he saw less than a dozen people on campus last Wednesday.
Darren Lyn
Few students are seen roaming the Kendall Campus. Darren Lyn, a nursing student, said he saw less than a dozen people on campus last Wednesday.

Bosi said these measures, along with the fact that the Kendall Campus is significantly more empty than before the pandemic, make her less worried about going in-person. However, the recent positive cases in Miami-Dade County public schools concern her.

She also worries about greater exposure due to state and local governments relaxing pandemic guidelines as part of phase three of reopening.

“With the fact that bars and clubs are opening up again … and people work at those places,” Bosi said. “They’re definitely exposed and at risk. If they go back on campus and they don’t know … it’s definitely worrisome.”

On her first day of class, Bosi said her classroom’s air conditioning was off. This resulted in her professor cancelling the lecture. She noted that at the following lecture, which she attended online, the problem seemed to have been fixed since the students in-person were in the same room.

“MDC should have definitely checked that the AC and ventilation was working properly,” she said.

Darren Lyn is a 44-year-old nursing student. He began his first year at MDC this spring, which means his experience at the college so far has revolved around the pandemic. Lyn said the school’s protocols are adequate so far, especially when it comes to social distancing.

However, he highlighted that at the Kendall campus, many of the classrooms either don’t have windows or have windows that do not open. He said he’s worried about the lack of proper ventilation.

Seats with social distancing stickers in a classroom at the Kendall Campus.
Darren Lyn
Seats with social distancing stickers in a classroom at the Kendall Campus.

Lyn’s biggest concern is non-compliance from students, especially when more people start coming to campus. Even in a small group setting, he’s seen some of his classmates wear their masks incorrectly or frequently remove them.

“I think the school could never have enough manpower to get everybody to comply,” Lyn said. “I am an older person, so I am a little bit more responsible. When I was younger I took a lot more risks as well, cause that’s just what you do when you’re 23, 24.”

Lyn’s anatomy class was split into four groups, as it has about 80 students. Since the class only meets once a week, Lyn expects to only go three times this semester. He said that face-to-face instruction is beneficial when you can discuss topics with a full classroom.

Now, with only a few students in each group, he doesn’t think the dynamic adds to the learning process.

“We’re taking a lesser risk by their calculations, but we’re also getting a lesser gain,” Lyn said. “The gain doesn’t match the risk here.”

Marisol Hernandez, an 18-year-old freshman, prefers going to campus. She said she finds online learning distracting, especially since it’s hard for her to find a quiet place to study in her four-person house.

“It just kind of sucks, because I’m trying to concentrate sometimes and I have to remind them I’m in class,” Hernandez said. “But also, it’s our house, so I’m not trying to impose so much on them.”

Hernandez is only going to two classes in person. Most of her professors are providing the option of coming to class or attending online. She said one of her teachers is considering merging two in-person groups since only a few people showed up.

“This wasn’t the way I pictured my first year of college, but a lot of things have changed,” Hernandez said. “I’ve made peace with it.”