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SFA plans to return to 'normal operations'

Stephen F. Austin State University is planning for a future with no masks, no social distancing, and no COVID-19.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — The pandemic has taken a toll on college students across the nation.

“I'll tell you, it was awful. As a first-semester nursing student, awful," Jasmine Montoya said. 

Montoya is in her second semester of nursing school but should be in her third.

“When they said, everything's moving online, I like lost it. I had to repeat the first semester because of COVID. It was very lonely," she said. 

For her and the 13,000 other SFA students, relief is in sight. 

“When we think about universities, that's especially a time in so many of our lives, in so many of our communities, where people get together and they meet new people. They have new experiences,” Communications officer, Graham Garner, said.

In recent weeks, SFA has been able to vaccinate 2,500 students, which doesn’t include the students who got vaccinated elsewhere.

Active COVID-19 cases are also declining.

“With a lot of those encouraging trends, we're recognizing that there are steps we can slowly take towards a little bit more normalcy for everyone,” Garner said.

On May 17, the campus will phase into status 1.5. This means that social distancing requirements will shorten from 6 ft. to 3 ft. Classroom occupancy will also increase from 50% to 80%. All of these efforts are moving the school towards status 1 in the fall, which is titled “Normal Operations.”

"I think it's interesting," Garner said. "We talk about 'back to normal' because I don't know that we'll ever be entirely back to normal, right?”

SFA has almost 15,000 faculty and students enrolled. As of April 5, there are only three COVID-19 cases connected to campus.

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