Editor's Note: This story was updated 6/4/21 to include that, in addition to KCC, ONU is also encouraging but not requiring COVID-19 vaccines for students and employees.
With COVID-19 vaccines widely available and normalcy creeping back in many places, colleges and universities are beginning to make decisions on what campus life will look like in the fall 2021 semester.
Kankakee Community College is still presently requiring masks to be worn in public spaces and classrooms, but that policy could be revisited soon, KCC President Michael Boyd said.
Boyd said the college is “patiently waiting” for further guidance from Gov. JB Pritzker, which he expects will come June 11 when the state is slated to move into Phase 5.
“We’ve been listening to the CDC’s guidance and [we] understand the science about it,” he said. “We’re also cognizant that Illinois needs to make some decisions.”
Boyd also said KCC does not have any plans to mandate students or employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in order to be on campus or attend class.
“I don’t see that happening anytime in the near future,” he said. “We are going to rely upon people to use their best judgment to get the vaccine and take classes as they need to.”
Boyd also noted that social-distancing practices on campus will probably stick around, and that both students and employees have demonstrated an understanding of the virus and how to interact with campus safely.
“What we also know is that these vaccines are working, and we’ve encouraged everyone — students, staff and faculty — to become vaccinated,” he said. “That gives us even more flexibility to move forward on how we deliver education.”
At Olivet Nazarene University, the current plans for fall 2021 are that masks will be “a personal choice rather than a campus-wide mandate,” and to return to a normal classroom experience where social distancing and masks are not required, according to the university’s website.
The website also clarifies that plans could change, and more decisions on specific campus operations are yet to come.
“Taking into account national, state and local guidance, Olivet will make decisions about campus operations closer to the fall semester, and new and returning students will receive information about any relevant changes,” it states.
ONU Executive Vice President David Pickering said the university is also taking the stance of encouraging, but not mandating, COVID-19 vaccinations for students and employees.
ONU will also still have COVID-19 testing available on campus, but it most likely will be provided on an as-needed basis, he said.
Other changes for fall 2021 include normal operations at the Ludwig Center, a full chapel schedule, full seasons for athletic teams, and the return of concerts, shows and productions for the performing arts departments.
The university also plans to continue reporting positive active cases on its online COVID-19 Dashboard when school is back in session.
In addition to being back to normal campus life in the fall, ONU will also have a new president, Gregg Chenoweth, who officially took the reins June 1.
Another nearby institution, Governors State University, has also begun planning for the fall semester.
Will Davis, GSU’s vice president of institutional advancement, marketing and communications, said that while some private universities are mandating vaccines, GSU is taking the approach of strongly encouraging all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before classes resume in fall.
“That would be the best case scenario for a safe and productive semester,’’ he said.