LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Schools across the country have adjusted to the new normal with a goal of keeping students safe in a learning environment.
That's no different than on college campuses, which also have to juggle students living in dorms.
Shortly before students at the University of Kentucky were sent home for the semester back in March as COVID-19 spread, Courtney Wheeler was elected president of the Student Government Association.
She was inaugurated over Zoom, which is how LEX 18 spoke with her for this story.
Wheeler says even in the uncertain beginning of the pandemic, the goal was to return to campus in the fall.
"Returning meant a lot to me. Returning to a place that students could call home. That they felt supported, that they had their resources, and the needs that they would need during their time at the university," said Wheeler.
In August, the students returned to a very different campus.
The move-in process was modified and spread out over several days.
Masks were now required and social distancing protocols were put in place.
Everyone returning was required to take a COVID-19 test.
There were two dorms set up for those living on campus that did need to isolate. According to the university, the highest filled capacity was to 44% back on September 2.
"It never got to the point where, I mean, there were times it kept some of us up at night, but it never got to the point where we were overwhelmed," said Dr. Bob DiPaola, Dean of the College of Medicine.
Capacity is currently at 15%, with 25 students on-campus in isolation.
Since August, close to 2,000 students have tested positive.
While most have recovered, according to the UK COVID-19 dashboard, 293 cases are active.
There was a risk in coming back, but wheeler, faculty members we spoke with, and President Eli Capilouto believe the university has managed the pandemic well with a proactive approach.
It all started with a plan, and was executed thanks to buy-in from the students.
"I am just grateful for our student body for being responsible to themselves, as well as to the community and allowing for us to get to the end of the semester, still in-person," said Trisha Clement-Montgomery, acting Dean of Students.
With two weeks to go before students go home for the winter, cases are ticking back up on campus.
It's been a hard semester, but Dr. Capilouto is hopeful students will keep their guard up, and return home safely.
"I want our students to look back at this unprecedented time in history, and to be able to look at themselves and tell their children and grandchildren 'you know I did my part in a difficult time in our country's history,'" said Dr. Capilouto.
Dr. Capilouto also urges people to get a flu shot, and for students to get a COVID test before leaving campus.
Students and staff will return for the Spring 2021 semester on January 25.