Fitchburg State Returns to In-Person Learning in the Fall


A classroom in the Antonucci Science Building showing the limited capacity of people allowed in the space at a time. Photo taken by Jordan Costa.

Jordan Costa and Brittany Eldridge

As vaccines are continuously rolling out, Fitchburg State will offer more in-person courses and events for the 2021 fall semester. Fitchburg State President Richard Lapidus stated in a press release on Mar. 17 that “Fitchburg State University is planning to return to in-person classes and a vibrant campus life in fall 2021.”

Alberto Cardelle Ph.D., Fitchburg State’s Provost, anticipates that roughly 88% of classes will be in-person next semester. Students began registering for classes on Apr. 12. In-person course offerings for the fall semester of 2021 are listed. 

“We are excited about the new semester, it will be nice to see people on campus. It is important, and we know that one or two classes online is nice but to have your freshman experience online is tough” said Cardelle.

“Fitchburg State plans to return to close-to-typical functioning for Fall 2021,” said Fitchburg State’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Laura Bayless Ph.D. She is hopeful for the reopening of offices for student services. “We will likely keep some of the flexibility we have learned throughout the pandemic.” 

“We saw that there is a high percentage of faculty that really want to come back and teach face-to-face and our discussions and what we are hearing from the state is that we are going to have permission to come back,” said Cardelle. “We feel that that is what students are looking for and our incoming students are looking for that too.”

For many upcoming sophomore students, life on campus will look very different come fall. They are getting a glimpse of what a semi-normal college experience looks like as some sports teams are playing and the dining hall is resuming in-person dining. Cardelle said that they are trying to give everyone as much of a normal experience by including as many in-person events and classes as possible, especially come fall. 

Cardelle stated that classes with multiple sections of a course may have a few remote offerings for student flexibility. For example, Writing I and Writing II courses may offer a few extra remote sections. These courses are in high demand because they are prerequisites for many other courses. 

“All classrooms have already been measured for capacities that accommodate a 6-foot or 3-foot distance between people. We have not heard from the Commonwealth about what the capacity limits will be for September 2021” said Bayless.

“I suspect that we will pick up a few more remote or hybrid courses,” says Cardelle. As most of the courses offered this year have been remote or hybrid, many students and faculty have adapted to this new way of learning. 

“Faculty have learned, and students too, that there are courses that actually remote may work better,” said Cardelle. “I think we may go up to 15% online compared to the 10% pre-pandemic.”

Student support offices will also be returning to limited-capacity face-to-face operations. 

“They will be at full capacity for the services that the service needs. So for instance, we will have tutors available for the students that want to come in and do face-to-face tutoring” Cardelle said. 

After the start of the semester, the Office of Student Development will most likely hold several optional sessions for students to build a sense of belonging, learn about opportunities and services, and answer questions. “Sophomore Orientation is going to be a one-day session to help students who have only been part of Fitchburg State this year transition to what will hopefully be a more typical campus experience” stated Bayless. 

The state will determine COVID testing procedures in the fall according to Cardelle. Fitchburg State will follow Governor Baker’s guidelines regarding testing, social distancing, appropriate regulations regarding masks, etc. 

“We are waiting to see what the state requires, our expectations are that we will have some level of testing, what exactly it will look like, we are unsure yet.” Cardelle said. 

Frankie-Ann Lovejoy, a junior at Fitchburg State does not mind the change. Lovejoy works in a grocery store, so she said she is already used to working with the public during the pandemic. She stated that her biggest concern “would be for those who are concerned about being in large groups. We don’t know how they’re going to handle the change, physically or mentally.” She prefers learning in-person because she gets distracted easily in a virtual classroom and feels like she does not retain the information. 

Vanessa Roberto, a student majoring in Education at Fitchburg State, said she is looking forward to the change because she found that the work in her major was more difficult to complete online. She also stated that in-person courses would provide her with a chance to get out of the house and would help improve her mental health. Roberto said that she is comfortable with returning to the in person format because she has already taken three hybrid courses between this and last semester. 

Devynn Fleming, a student at Fitchburg State as well as a healthcare worker, stated that she does not agree with the return to in person learning in the fall unless the majority of students are vaccinated by then. Fleming said that “the blatant disregard for proper mask-wearing and social distancing is irritating.” 

Regarding students wearing masks improperly, Fleming said that “there should be some kind of penalty for breaking this rule.” When asked whether she preferred online or in person courses, Fleming stated that she preferred online courses because the majority of her courses involve discussing texts, which can be accomplished online. “Many of the professors I know forget their masks,” she said. 

If students have any questions or concerns regarding the transition back to in-person courses the Provost has advised that first students reach out to their advisors or the chair of the given department. If the questions still cannot be answered the dean of that department should be contacted.