Thousands of students return to University of Arizona for in-person classes

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 9:24 AM MST|Updated: Aug. 23, 2021 at 3:30 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - For the first time in 18 months, the University of Arizona campus was filled with thousands of students early Monday, Aug. 23.

The University has implemented virtual classes in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Holly Jensen, the school’s vice president of communications, said not only is the university excited for students to attend classes in person this year, but also said the Tucson community is eager for students to be back on campus.

Last year, local businesses and restaurants didn’t see the financial impact that they’re used to seeing when classes are in session. Within the past week, Jensen said businesses already have seen a financial impact from students and families.

“We are so excited to have our students back. It’s not only good for our community but also it’s really good for our students and their mental health,” Jensen said. “We have a whole class of sophomores who really didn’t get to experience the Wildcat culture as a first-year student.”

With more than 8,700 first-year students, the University of Arizona welcomes its largest first-year class in history Monday. This year’s total enrollment has surpassed 47,300 students, and the university said it expects that number to grow as more students complete registration.

Jensen said the record-breaking freshman class worries the university when it comes to COVID-19 spread on campus, so they are begging students and staff to regularly get tested.

“Because we know the delta variant is so contagious and a lot of those breakthrough infections aren’t symptomatic,” Jensen said. “The way to make sure we are catching it and keeping those students safe and isolated or those employees isolated at home is through testing.”

Antibody testing will be available on campus, and there will be on-campus wastewater testing to detect the presence of the virus in dorms and other buildings. There will also be isolation dorm rooms for students who test positive.

Jensen said the university believes students and staff will do the right thing by getting tested and wearing masks because they don’t want to go back to that virtual learning.

“We expect our students will do the right thing, they did the right thing all last year, so we expect they will do it again this year. If there is a problem, they can follow the code of conduct rules, but we haven’t seen a large number of students who aren’t willing to put on their masks and sit in class. I think it’s because they know if they don’t, we might have to go back to virtual or a hybrid learning and they just don’t want that,” Jensen said.

The school is also recommending vaccinations for all students and staff. Vaccines will be available at the Campus Health Center. Students and staff who get vaccinated will receive incentives from the university.

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