Move-in day, masked: the start to App State students’ weeklong return to campus

Family+and+friends+assist+students+moving+in+to+residence+halls+August+10.+People+wait+outside+with+items+ready+to+be+moved+in%2C+following+social+distancing+orders.

Jesse Barber

Family and friends assist students moving in to residence halls August 10. People wait outside with items ready to be moved in, following social distancing orders.

Emily Broyles, News Editor

As cars and construction trucks passed Summit Hall, Kalie Lynch pulled down her mask to bid her family goodbye. App State’s campus will be home to this new normal every day this week as students move into residence halls, socially distanced.

Differing from past years’ move-in days, incoming students are experiencing a week-long process that started Aug. 10, in which a certain number of students move in each day and at different times throughout. Monday, 900 students moved in and 1,050 followed Tuesday, according to Alicia Vest, associate director of University Housing.

Vest said while this process is new, she thinks the first day of move-in went smoothly.

“It felt different without the hundreds of volunteers we have had in past years, and with small groups of students checking in at a time,” Vest said. “I think one of the biggest adjustments for families was having one “helper” per student in the residence halls, but overall I think people understand we are limiting group sizes and the number of people in the residence halls for the safety of our community.”

In previous years, move-in day hailed volunteers from near and far to wrangle students into their new living spaces. COVID-19 has limited this process dramatically.

Housing asks parents to stay in cars for the process to social distance. Vest said App State Police and Parking and Transportation were “a huge help” in keeping lines short and check-in smooth.

Check-in points were set up on campus so students had the option of arriving to their residence hall or the check-in area, like West side’s point located in Peacock parking lot.

“When we check them in, we give them their key and we’ve got this move in packet. Each move in packet has three of their face coverings, it’s got a touchless tool and a couple other pieces of information just about the changes that housing specifically has made more for COVID and things like that,” said Amanda Kutchens, assistant director of communications & conferences for University Housing. 

Kutchens said the day went as planned and mentioned that by the afternoon of their move in, most students were already involved in the TrailHead Experience.

Trailhead serves as a “one-day extended orientation program” for incoming students this year, focusing on building community, creating connections and leadership at App State. On its website, the program says students will receive their common reading book, advising planner, and signature first-year “A” lapel pin in their assigned small groups.

“It’s been actually pretty smooth. It’s been really cool too to hear all the students bond over just moving in in general and then having them become friends with each other,” Trailhead leader Cecilia Chan said.

Chan, a junior, said more parents came to move-in day than she expected, however people still followed Phase Two rules and regulations.

“Everyone’s still wearing a mask and making sure there’s some distance, and if they see someone and they don’t have a mask, they’ll put it back on,” said Chan. “I hope it keeps up as more people are coming into campus, but I’m not sure since (there are) a lot of people coming here.”

In an update sent to students Aug. 7, Chancellor Sheri Everts acknowledged that returning to campus is not without risk. As of Aug. 11, App State has 32 active cases of COVID-19 who are in insolation. Ten of these cases are employees and 22 are students.

“As we return to campus, we expect to see an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, but our staff and faculty have been working for months on countless measures designed to mitigate the risk to members of our community,” Everts said.

Living in a pandemic and now starting college, Lynch, a freshman exercise science major, said she was stressed throughout the day, but acknowledged housing’s help

“I feel like they handled it really well with everything going on,” Lynch said. 

Lynch’s father said coming from Asheboro two hours away and moving things up to the residence hall one person at a time was “a little bit stressful,” but is expected and needed to stay safe. No matter a pandemic, his child was still going off to college.

“This is the baby and we are finally empty-nesting,” Lynch’s father said. “We’ve got mixed emotions, we would rather be nowhere else than here.”