Luther College students petition against going back to in-person learning before start of semester

DECORAH, Iowa (KCRG) – When Shannon Schultz, a biology student in her junior year at Luther College, heard students would have to go back to in-person learning to finish their second quarter, she got nervous.

Students at Luther College had completed the first half of their second-quarter online, but were now required to go back to in-person classes.

“After Christmas, I made a post that said something to the extent of, ‘Hey I am really nervous about going back to school, how are you guys feeling?” Schultz said. “And I got over 200 likes, which is sort of a huge number for Luther since there is close to a little under 1,800 students.”

Over 700 students came together to sign a petition asking the private school in Decorah to consider having learning be all-virtual, especially considering they will have a small break after the second quarter is over on January 29 and before the spring semester begins. That break, Schultz said, would give students the opportunity to leave campus and go home.

She said they are worried people will let down their guard during the six-day break and potentially bring the virus back for the spring semester.

“The bigger dorms are on my social media feeds and I would still see people going out to bars, still see people not following the rules at all and there was just a general vibe of anxiety across campus of students being worried or students not caring,” Schultz said.

Schultz said the purpose of the petition is to stop people from “breaking the bubble.”

“I think a lot of misconceptions were like, ‘Oh, you do not want to be online until the end of the year’, but that was not what it was about,” Schultz said. “It was just trying to stop those two weeks from happening in person.”

Jenifer Ward, president of Luther College, said a downward trend of local COVID-19 indicators prompted them to make the decision of having students come back to in-person learning. In the last two weeks, Winneshiek County has reported a 10% positivity rate and 107 positive coronavirus cases.

However, Ward said she recognizes the students’ concerns.

“That is why we do not want you to go home, we want you to stay here,” Ward said. “We want to create activities that make it possible for you to stay here.”

Some of those activities include game nights and winter activities.

Luther College does not require students who leave campus on break to quarantine when they return. Ward said they will be encouraging a “partial quarantine” and a “dialed-down return.” Ward also mentioned the school is working to make testing more available, which is something that was mostly available to student-athletes, musicians, and resident assistants.

“We are following the science, we are following the data, and if we reach the moment within our indicators where we have said we cannot do this now, then we will pivot and we will do it quickly and we will do it thoroughly,” she mentioned. “In the meantime, let us make hay while the sun shines.”

Copyright 2021 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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