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Colleges in Oregon, SW Washington plan to resume in-person classes in the fall

"I don't feel like I'm learning as much through Zoom as I would be if I was sitting in a classroom," said OSU freshman Hayley Lewis.

PORTLAND, Ore. — By the time fall term starts, major universities in Oregon and Southwest Washington feel it will be safe enough to bring back students on campus and into the classroom.

"We wanted to just reassure students we plan to be safely open for fall and really just throw open the doors for students to apply," said Christina Williams, director of media and public relations for Portland State University.

Williams says the school has done a lot of work to outfit the classes for COVID safety, such as upgrading ventilation systems and adding signage to remind students and staff about social distancing and other common rules we've come to know over the last year.

"It's our hope that we'll really be able to still accommodate a lot of students on campus, and that some of these rules won't be as important," Williams said. "I do think that masks and social distancing and good hygiene will be with us for a long time."

Portland State has waived the application fee and lowered the GPA requirement to entice more high school students to apply.

University of Oregon, WSU Vancouver and Oregon State University are also planning to bring students back into the classroom this fall.

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"It won't be a resumption of what we had before, and in many ways that's what I think each of us have come to realize is important and is the responsible way to approach the future," said Steve Clark, vice president of university relations for Oregon State University.

Clark says about 90% of classes at OSU have been held remotely this year. The university has added a few more in-person classes for the spring term.

OSU freshman Hayley Lewis's first year at college hasn't been that true college experience she was hoping for.  She's spent every day of class in a Zoom call.

"I expected to be able to go to classes and go and have a professor teach me and not kind of learn through Zoom and all online." Lewis said, "I'm a very visual learner and I just always learn better when someone's teaching it to me and I can ask questions. Through Zoom, I feel it's a bit harder to get that one-on-one help that I personally like and need."

The residence halls were filled with a limited capacity. Clark says around 1,700 to 1,800 students live in the dorms. A normal year would have about three to four times that amount.

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Lewis, like a lot of students, spent the beginning part of the year living at home, only moving on campus just after Christmas.

"I felt so isolated for awhile. I could never see people my own age. I feel like I was always around my parents and family. It's been nice to be on campus."

Lewis is a biology major and is on the pre-dentistry track. The hardest classes she says she's had to do remotely are her labs.

"That's the worst part I think is that I'm trying to do these labs and you can't conduct them, they give you the procedures and how you're supposed to do it, but you never get to do it. You have to imagine like you're there."

Lewis says she's ready to head to her first in-person class at OSU's Corvallis campus this fall. She feels it will be safe with more and more people getting vaccinated.

"I'm really excited, I've just missed the feeling of being in the classroom. I feel like I'm going to have to adjust back to that," Lewis said. "I think it's going to be a little bit hard, but in the end I think it'll be worth it."

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