McKendree University students make staggered return to campus ahead of classes begun


LEBANON, Ill. – McKendree University students are making a staggered return to campus.

“Very excited,” says Braden Harmon, a freshman. “I was kind of skeptical at the beginning of the summer that we were going to come at all, but now that we’re here; I’m just glad to be here.”

Founded in 1828, McKendree is considered the oldest college or university in the state of Illinois. But this academic year is a one of a kind in its long history.

“It is a staggered week,” says Joni Bastian, McKendree University’s vice president student affairs and dean of students. “We started our socially move in distance on Friday of last week. Went through the weekend. Today is a big day for us: 220 arriving today. We’ll continue that through Sunday.”

“We’re requiring everyone to wear a mask,” says Daryl Hancock, vice president of operations for McKendree. “We’re doing social distancing even in the classrooms, so we’ve adjusted furniture. We’ve got areas marked off not to use. Across the board we’re doing everything we can for not just the students but also for our faculty and staff.”

A hybrid mix of remote, online, and in-person classes are what students and staff will see, with plenty of social distancing, temperature taking, and a lot of love from moms and dads for sons and daughters getting acclimated into the next chapter of their lives.

“I was very concerned after his senior year was a little bit not as good as it could have been because of the virus,” says Mandy Kelly, Harmon’s mother. “I was worried they wouldn’t have him come to school. The fact that he is on campus today is super exciting for us. So proud and lots of mixed emotions. it’s hard being a mama and letting go.”

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