UTEP students and staff brace first day back to school amid pandemic changes

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)–Monday was the first day back to school at for UTEP students and faculty, but the pandemic and precautionary measures surrounding it, made classes feel completely different.

UTEP said it has roughly 29,000 students and faculty, but with most classes shifting to online, the amount on campus at one time is significantly reduced.

75 percent of UTEP classes are online, 20 percent are a hybrid of online and in-person and only five percent is fully face-to-face.

UTEP Political Science professor Dr. Todd Curry said it was a surprisingly easy first day, however, he did need to find a way to shift his classes to fit an online format.

“It’s been a lot of reinventing what a lot of us have already perfected,” Curry said. “For those of us who didn’t have online experience, the transitioning to online teaching has been a lot of thinking of best practices and how to implement them in a new medium.”

He said since UTEP gave professors plenty of notice classes would be online, he was able to modify his classes to make things easier for his students.

Meanwhile Cristina Goletti, a ballet professor and Chair of the UTEP Theatre and Dance department said it was a bit hectic.

“The level of stress and anxiety was higher than usual,” Goletti said.

She said working from home is an adjustment that needs some getting used to as she’s used to teaching her subject in a large studio, with room for movement and plenty of physical interaction.

“Now you see my cat here, some people have kids also doing online schooling so people have to navigate this new reality,” Goletti said.

But there are still some students who still need to step foot on campus. Signs all around UTEP remind students face masks are required and students must keep away from each other.

“It’s been taking a toll just on the whole social aspect of it, the college experience if you want to call it,” UTEP student Andre Corral said.

“You’re just on edge, you hear someone sneeze, and you’re like oh,” UTEP student Enrique Davila added.

Some classrooms and facilities have closed off areas, spaced out desks and provide hand sanitizer for students to use. Despite the changes, students say they’re happy with UTEP’s safety measures.

“But I’m also more proud of ourselves, the students cause we’ve been following the rules cause someone can put as many rules as they want and it all depends on the people,” Corral said.

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