JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville State University students returned to campus Wednesday to kick off the 2022 spring semester.
Campus commons, halls, and dining facilities came alive again — but with an all-too-familiar mask mandate in place.
University President Don Killingsworth Jr. released a statement to all students before their return.
“After reviewing our current COVID-19 infection rates due to the Omicron variant of the virus, the university will be reinstating a mask requirement for all campus buildings effective Wednesday, January 12, to Friday, January 28,” Killingsworth stated in the release. “As with previous semesters, we will reevaluate continually and make adjustments as conditions change.”
Ushering in the new semester, campus police Chief Michael Barton welcomed new students in the campus rec center for the year’s first vaccination clinic.
“The majority of folks who’re coming are getting booster doses, but we also offer the first and second doses as well,” Barton said. “We’ve had great participation today. Over 150 folks have registered so far.”
The clinic was held on the students’ first day back. Barton said he felt it was important for the university to offer clinics such as this one as transmission rates rise — not only for the students but for the community as well.
“The University is committed to offer whatever resources we can to help our campus community during these times, so this is one of probably 20 clinics that we’ve done since the vaccine became available and we will continue to do it as long as there is a need for it,” Barton said.
Just outside Angle Hall, Tavaria Johnson headed to class as she made her way across the campus commons.
Studying pre-health professional biology with a Spanish minor, Johnson, of Childersburg, lives on campus.
“I’m a sophomore, I’ve been here for two years now,” Johnson said. “So, I’m really excited. Today’s been a good day so far.”
Allison Bates, 18 from Scottsboro, sat waiting for her friend outside of the dining hall on campus. As a freshman who is new to college life, Bates said she and her friend Payton Berry, 18, also from Scottsboro, had come to the university together.
“It’s kind of scary being away from home,” Bates said. “I got COVID when I got here so in the first semester, I didn’t really get to experience much, but I love it. It’s a beautiful campus and everyone’s super nice.”