On Thursday, the State University System of Florida announced that all 12 public universities in the Sunshine State can return to pre-pandemic operations for academics, social activities, and sports.
"[We] expect to increase classroom occupancy to pre-COVID capacity by the 2021-22 academic year and return to pre-COVID operations," said the statement. "Further, we anticipate returning to full in-person participation in athletic and social activities on our campuses, including fan participation in stadiums and arenas."
It’s welcome news to many students, especially this year’s freshmen who said they can’t wait to experience a true year of college life.
"When we first toured this place, everyone was out. It was definitely different. There were no masks because I toured this place a while ago," explained University of South Florida freshman Kennedy Yelvington. "I was expecting all the football games and all the fun stuff but it’s just kind of been closed off completely."
Yelvington said she’s eager to pull the plug on online learning. Despite being back on campus this year, capacity limits meant many classes were only offered online. She said it’s been a real challenge to follow along and keep up, especially in her more technical classes.
"You’re always hunched over a computer and doing it online and it’s just too hard to focus and you have too many distractions versus being in a classroom where you’re supposed to be focused and engaging in conversation," said Yelvington. "It’s just been a little bit difficult this year."
The impact goes beyond students on campus as well. Florida’s college sports teams will also be able to welcome all their fans back this fall with stadiums at full capacity.
Universities are encouraging students and faculty to get vaccinated before coming back to campus but because of the governor’s ban on vaccine passports, schools can’t require proof of vaccine status in order to come back.