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St. Norbert College navigates successful in-person semester amid pandemic

Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 2:27 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Both students and faculty at St. Norbert College are touting an accomplishment of which they say they’re very proud.

Despite the continued surge of COVID-19 cases in this area for months, the college is just days from completing its first semester of in-person classes.

When students arrived at St. Norbert College in late August, the question of how the fall semester would play out was anybody’s guess.

“I know a lot of people were trying to guess how long we would last here. It ranged from a week to a month max. I was more on the month, but I thought that’s as far as we would get, so I’m thrilled to be here just a week before semester ends and we’ll finish the semester strong,” says St. Norbert College junior Breena Hansen.

The college says it started tracking student and staff COVID cases in early July and made classrooms as safe as possible before instruction started.

From there it came down to basic protocols everyone had to follow.

“Mask inside and outside, physically distance in the classroom and even outside, also washing hands and just really sticking to the testing, isolation and quarantine. All those things worked,” says Chrystal Woller, St. Norbert College Health Services Director.

“The key was having the students buy in to the common good. We have a sense of community here at St. Norbert which is unrivaled, which allows us to be this case study across the country, where we’re in the epicenter and we’re still chugging along,” says St. Norbert College junior Oliver Dressel.

“A number of colleges and universities have reached out to us, want to know how we’re doing. We’ve had a couple health care systems locally even reach out to us and want to know what has allowed St. Norbert College to be so successful when Brown County and Wisconsin have been having such challenges with cases,” adds St. Norbert College President Brian Bruess.

According to the college’s COVID dashboard, there have been 227 total cases between students and staff since July 4, with most occurring in September.

“We knew were going to have cases on campus, we are not in a protective bubble, and what we do know is that when we had a surge in cases, isolation, quarantine and testing worked,” says Woller.

After Thanksgiving break, students will take their finals online then get a long break before spring semester resumes in-person in early February.

“We’ve got a great track record, we haven’t had a single case trace back to the classroom or workplace, and we’re one of the few schools that started out in-person and has been able to stay in-person,” says Bruess.

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