Edinboro Feeling Like a Campus Town Again
But how long it lasts is anyone's guess
Breaking a short stretch of afternoon quiet, there's a booming stray yawp out of one apartment — "AAAAYIYIYIIIIIIIIiiiiii…" — met, rapid-fire, from somewhere next-door: "
SHUUUT the F*** UP!" "Who said that?" asks that screamer, stepping out his door.
"I did," says that neighbor.
He comes out of his door. She rounds the corner in front of hers.
Uh-oh, I think. A second or two pass, and ... "Bike ride?" he asks — and off they go.
Christ these kids are weird, I think. And everywhere, and so damn loud …
And we're more than happy to have them — literally hundreds upon hundreds more young people than we've seen around in a very long time — back to disturb what's been a too-long, veering into straight up eerie kind of peace in sunny Edinboro.
See, for us, those kinds of fun little messes (and the people who bring them) being all over the place have always been part of making a neighborhood in the smack-dab middle of town — just off the sprawling campus of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania — our home.
Or they were, at least, until COVID came to eat 2020 alive. Then, everything went quiet around here. Like, QUIET.
And (with initial full lockdowns last year, then subsequent partial and remote learning-heavy restarts heading into 2021) stayed that way for a long while, until everyone started listening to the facts and science (right?); everyone eligible for it got a COVID vaccine (right?!); and, as sure as the sun rises, everything eventually went from new-normal back to good 'ol regular-normal (RIGHT?!?!?).
As with everything else, when it comes to getting back to it for all of the academic institutions throughout the region, the realities of the situation are a good bit murkier than that.
On one hand, full public school and college reopenings that have been well-buffered by ongoing mitigation and strong plans/practices, as well as the ever-growing numbers of vaccinated people throughout the country (and, yeah, the absolute glut of advertising with that you're back!/we're back!/everything's awesome!/buy shit! vibe all over it) makes it sort of easy to relax into it a bit. To feel like, you know, we got this.
And, hopefully, we do.
But there's that other hand, real as your face, that we can't separate from, too — the one where COVID outbreaks continue as way, way too many millions of people in the U.S., for whatever (and but damn few good) reasons, haven't gotten any kind of vaccine, and aren't whatsoever planning to despite their wide-ascan-be availability and evidence of efficacy, complete with FDA approval.
Then, to top it — and compound the plethora of possible threat, risk and challenge to everyone — there's that Delta variant.
At Edinboro and throughout the rest of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), riding the undercurrent of all of this has been news in recent months of the upcoming mergers/consolidations of a total of six PASSHE schools (Edinboro, Clarion and Slippery Rock universities in the state's northwest; and Mansfield, Lock Haven and Bloomsburg universities in the northeast), meant to address what have been continually declining enrollment numbers throughout the system and position the schools for adaptive changes and futures that allow them to remain open, affordable, and accessible for students.
As far as handling current COVID-related challenges go with the college having kicked off its first week of classes at the end of August, Edinboro spokespersons politely pointed me in the direction of their official University Emergency Response Team's Fall 2021 Plan, which strictly adheres to current national Centers for Disease Control recommendations and protocols.
That means, in short, for now:
Classrooms are occupied by students pre-pandemic style, but with masks required and social distancing encouraged; dorms are occupied pre-pandemic style, but with move-in screenings required and strong recommendations that everyone get vaccinated; and, in the event there are any outbreaks, it's right back to quarantines and, if it gets bad enough, potential returns to online-only teaching and learning.
And as far as handling that upcoming merging-into-something-new goes, PASSHE has laid out its plans for the mergers, which will not close any of the respective campuses, to officially take place starting in 2022.
For Edinboro — like it is for so many people, places and things — how it goes in the future could depend largely on how things are handled now and in coming months.
Here's to hoping those crazy-ass kids are still yelling across the street next fall.
If you're interested in digging deeper, you can find all sorts of information about the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education's merger/consolidation plans at passhe.edu/ SystemRedesign. Edinboro University's Fall 2021 Plan is available at edinboro.edu.
Ryan Smith can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.