Fall classes crank up at Tennessee Tech

Tennessee Tech president Phil Oldham hands out hand sanitizer and masks to students in the Roaden University Center on Monday as the Fall semester officially got underway.

COOKEVILLE – For the first time since mid-March, there was an assemblance of normalcy on Tennessee Tech’s campus. Students listened to lectures, ate in the cafeteria, hung out on Centennial plaza and interacted on Zoom and Teams as the Fall semester officially got underway.

“We are exactly where we hoped we would be this time of year,” said Tennessee Tech president Phil Oldham. “Now, it’s up to us to do our part to stay here.”

Since an extended spring break in March, the Tennessee Tech campus has been rather quiet because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students finished up the spring semester online and the first summer session was also online before some faculty and students began returning toward the end of summer.

“Since March, we have done the right thing based on circumstances,” said Oldham, who helped hand out hand sanitizer and facemasks on Monday. “We will continue to make the right decisions as conditions continue to change.”

While somewhat normal, the students return to campus looked a little different than in the past. Students wore masks and practiced social distancing in the classroom while instructors stood behind plexiglass and lectured while wearing face shields or masks.

“I just got finished with my first class and it was so much better in person. It was awesome,” said Rebecca Carter, a business major from Cookeville. “I don’t like to learn online. I have to see the teacher’s face.”

The first day of the semester didn’t come off without a hitch. A national Zoom outage wreaked havoc on some class schedules.

“My first class was canceled because Zoom crashed, and the rest followed. It’s going to be a learning curve,” said Jack Wiggins, a biochemistry/cellular biology major from Cookeville. “I am glad to be back on campus.”

According to a COVID-19 dashboard updated daily on the Tech website (https://www.tntech.edu/covid19/status.php), there is one staff person, one faculty person and one student living on campus who has currently tested positive for COVID-19. Off campus, there are 16 students who have tested positive.

“We need to work together,” said Oldham. “We need to be good-natured about it. We need to show a lot of empathy toward each other and continue to listen.”

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