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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Oklahoma college students face 'new reality' in pandemic

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Over the next week, college campuses in Oklahoma will be all but deserted.

Of course, that’s to be expected during spring break. But in the ensuing weeks, several campuses will remain quiet and uncharacteristically devoid of students, hardly resembling the normal, lively atmosphere.

At least a dozen colleges and universities in Oklahoma, including the two largest in the state, have announced plans to move in-person classes online for two weeks. Universities across the nation have taken this measure to prevent spread of the coronavirus.

Some colleges extended spring break to two weeks to give faculty time to prepare for the transition online, pushing students’ earliest return to at least a month away. Dorms and offices will remain open, but students have been encouraged to stay home.

Multiple students told The Oklahoman they were glad their schools took the precaution of online classes, but the effect on college life is undeniable.

“I think that this is going to be some kind of a new reality for a lot of people,” said Jacob Harrell, a sophomore at Oklahoma City University. “I think that it’s a good thing that we’re taking precautions and being proactive. I don’t think we should be anxious about it, but by all means we should be aware that things are going to be impacted.”

Harrell said he counts himself lucky. As a double major in English and religious education, his classes might translate more easily to an online format, unlike his roommate who studies musical theater and performing arts.

He said he’s also fortunate to come from the same metro area as his university. Harrell said he plans to return to his hometown of Norman, but he and his family wrestled with where he should live.

Harrell decided to stay at his grandmother’s house, where he’ll have a better internet connection and fewer distractions. He’ll also ensure his grandmother doesn’t have to leave home for errands and risk exposure to the virus, which has been deadly for the elderly.

Others plan on staying in their college town. Amanda Brace said she’ll continue to live in Stillwater as she finishes her first year of veterinary school at Oklahoma State University.

She said it was a surprise when OSU suspended face-to-face classes, but said students have been “willing to adjust.”

“I feel concerned for those who are susceptible,” Brace said. “For me right now, I want to handle the situation the best I can and help prevent the spread of it, and so if that means I do need to stay home, I’m willing to do that.”

But some are unsure what that adjustment will look like. Several students said their classes would be difficult to re-create online.

Brace questioned how laboratory work will continue for her veterinary classes. Louis Jackson, a political science junior at the University of Oklahoma, said some of his professors have had to eliminate assignments and projects, though most of his classes are lecture-based.

“I've taken classes online before while trying to balance school and work. I find that the educational experience is just not the same,” Jackson said. “However, I am so thankful that OU is taking what I see as the necessary precautions during this time.

“Though most of the students aren't in a high risk group of getting COVID-19, we certainly all interact and know people who it could be fatal to.”

Emily Terrill, a senior at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, said the classes she needs to graduate with a degree in fashion marketing are mostly hands-on. Instead of books and tests, some of her classes involve sewing, setting up displays, and presenting business plans to investors and bankers.

Terrill said her professors have been supportive, but this isn't how she envisioned her final semester of college. UCO won’t resume in-person classes until at least April 13.

“I think it’s especially unfortunate because it’s my last semester so I feel like it’s kind of being taken away in a sense,” Terrill said. “Classes are really my biggest social time that I have with other people.

“I won’t see these people for a month, maybe ever again now.”

Colleges with online-only classes:

University of Oklahoma—Norman

Oklahoma State University—Stillwater, Tulsa

University of Central Oklahoma

Oklahoma Baptist University

Oklahoma City University

Oklahoma Christian University

Oklahoma City Community College

Rose State College

University of Tulsa

East Central University

Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma

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<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-23325060d66031b574c659dc4822f8a0.jpg" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0c5f89b9534908785420aa0bfd43c24a.jpg" alt="Photo - A person walks with the umbrella in the rain across the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman archives] " title=" A person walks with the umbrella in the rain across the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman archives] "><figcaption> A person walks with the umbrella in the rain across the University of Central Oklahoma campus in Edmond. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman archives] </figcaption></figure>
Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel joined The Oklahoman in 2019. She found a home at the newspaper while interning in summer 2016 and 2017. Nuria returned to The Oklahoman for a third time after working a year and a half at the Sedalia Democrat in Sedalia,... Read more ›

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