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What Arkansas colleges are doing to prepare for fall semester

"We come armed with a whole set of knowledge and skills that we did not have at this time last year."

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Students will be shuffling back onto college campuses in a couple of weeks, but with COVID-19 still circling within communities, what will it look like?

Administrators said they're excited to have the livelihood of the campus back, while also having all COVID protocols in place to minimize risks for faculty and students. 

Melissa Taverner, Lyon College Provost and Dean of Faculty, said they're hopeful.

"What we do is relational and relational via a two-dimensional screen. It can be done, but the power is really the person in the same room and doing the work together and we're really looking forward to getting back to that," she said.

There's a buzz in the air at college campuses across the state as the fall semester is just a few short weeks away!

Patty Poulter, UCA Provost and Executive Vice President, said she's expecting a livelier and more engaged campus this fall.

"Really things are going to look much more familiar, I think, in terms of what people think of when they think of an active and vibrant campus," she said.

With that familiarity also comes habits that people got used to over the last year. 

Taverner said at Lyon College COVID-19 testing, vaccines and masks will all be readily available on campus, while classroom capacity will move back up to 80%. 

"We want to make sure we are teaching as much in-person, as possible, that's what we do and that's where we feel our efficacy is greatest," she said.

Over in Conway, Poulter said things will be similar there with masks, testing, trained contact tracers and shots all accessible.

"There's no barriers to becoming vaccinated and we really encourage that, as much as possible," she said.

While the excitement is there, Taverner said the anxiety is too, while both campuses continue to watch the numbers closely.

"We are constantly looking at data on campus and off campus. We are looking at our facilities, we are looking at what we can do and trying to do our best to educate people," she said.

But both Taverner and Poulter remain hopeful, since they know they can pull from a brand new set of tools.

"We come armed with a whole set of knowledge and skills that we did not have at this time last year," Poulter said.

Lyon College will host a vaccine clinic on move-in day on Aug. 7 for anyone in the community to take advantage of.