KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Free COVID testing for students began Thursday at Western Michigan University. School officials said it’s not mandatory for students. However it is a part of their plan to keep the school as safe as possible.
“This is really an exciting time, the beginning of a new school year. The students are coming back and [I'm] looking forward to being able to engage them in building meaningful careers,” said WMU president Dr. Edward Montgomery. “And, to do that we have to make sure that we provide a safe environment for them to operate.”
So, school officials have implemented a number of measures that Dr. Montgomery said includes mask-wearing, cleaning classrooms, social-distancing, and contact-tracing.
“I’ll definitely refrain from who I’m hanging out with,” said freshman Shannon Jackman who plans to spend more time in her suite this semester. “I’ll make sure I know where the people I’m interacting with have been and refrain how much I go outside.”
Jackman said she’ll keep to her self for most of her first year at WMU. She’s bummed about it but understands the situation.
“I’m excited, you know, kind of sad there’s no football,” Jackman said. “I was looking forward to that. But, it’s really just all like the safety stuff. There’s obviously going to be other things on campus.”
Many activities, like the annual Broncos Bash, an event that welcomes students back to campus, has been moved online.
Dr. Montgomery said they’re keeping an eye out for large gatherings, like parties, both on and off campus. Fraternities and sororities have already vowed to not throw parties this fall.
However, students will be allowed to protest and march should the occasion arise, he added.
“Obviously we understand why people are concerned about the course of society and are concerned about current events,” Dr. Montgomery said. “So students will gather and want to express their views and we encourage people to express their views. But there's a way to do it that is safe. You can march and you can social distance."
And wear a mask while doing so, he said.
Mask-wearing is a must whenever a student or faculty member is indoors, he said. WMU offered their students a variety of classes: five different modalities, ranging from totally in person, to online only, and hybrid models.’ Students were allowed to choose which modality they liked.
His hope is that everyone abides by all the rules to make this school year as safe as possible.
“We surveyed our students and 85 percent of them said they can see them easily complying with the plan. It was easy to implement,” Dr. Montgomery said. “Eleven percent said they actually changed their plan rather than take a year off. They wanted to come because they had faith in it. So, I think it’s a different environment. We’ll work our way through it as a community.”