After a year of being almost exclusively online, Whatcom Community College’s campus is starting to open again for spring quarter. While classes are still online, study pods have begun to open up at the new Phyllis and Charles Self Learning Commons and the Orca Food Pantry has reopened.
The study space, which must be reserved in advance, is a quiet space for students to study, access Wi-Fi, borrow technology, and print papers. It’s divided into two groups, the Pod and the Cove. The Pod provides access to technology such as laptops, cameras, and printers, while the Cove is a space to study by yourself or with one other person.
Covid protocols are in place for both spaces, including tracking who is present each day, requiring symptom checks, face masks, and socially distanced seating. There is a limited number of spaces available, so reserving in advance is necessary.
The Orca Food Pantry has also reopened, now in the first floor of Syre across from the bookstore. The Pantry supplies students with non-perishable food items, and is open to all students weekdays 9AM to 4PM. Masks and social distancing are required.
Summer quarter will be primarily online with limited in person instruction, according to an email sent to students in April. Vaccinations are not required, although there are resources available to students who wish to get one. There are clinics provided both by BTC and PeaceHealth, both which require an appointment.
While Whatcom isn’t requiring vaccinations for summer quarter, many universities in the area have already announced that vaccinations will be required to attend classes. Western Washington University, University of Washington, Washington State University, and Evergreen State College are among the schools to require vaccinations, though many allow for exemptions based on personal or medical concerns similar to exemptions they provide for other vaccines.
Opinions about returning to campus are varied among both students and teachers. Maggie McDowell is a Running Start Student who will be graduating this year and hasn’t enjoyed online classes. “I used to be a straight A student and now I’m barely passing my classes. I realized that I learn better in person so it’s been a struggle.” She won’t be attending Whatcom in the fall but hopes that in person classes will resume for students like her who need the stability of an in-person class.
Professor Beishline has experimented with teaching ceramics classes in person this quarter. Because of the unique challenges of a ceramics class, online was not a suitable option. “[Students] value time and space in the ceramics studio and the ability to ask questions and get feedback directly.” He splits the class into smaller groups so students can distance easier and requires handwashing and masks. He says the experience has been good so far and really helpful for students.