SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Thousands of Cal Poly students are returning to campus this week just ahead of the new fall quarter that starts Monday.
"I could not wait," said Reagan Cain, an incoming freshman from Bakersfield. "I've been at home on lockdown since March, middle of March, so I could not wait to come."
Due to COVID-19, the Cal Poly campus has essentially been shutdown since the start of the pandemic in the spring, nearly deserted except for a small amount of faculty and staff.
But with many strict safety measures put into place, university administration decided to allow a limited number of students back onto campus for the new academic year.
To facilitate the return, university administration put together a comprehensive plan called, "Roadmap to Fall 2020."
"We are all in this together," said Joy Pedersen, Interim Dean of Students. "We are taking a lot of precautions. We have been working really hard in partnership with the Public Health Department and the City to realistic and safe guidelines for our students," said Joy Pedersen, Interim Dean of Students.
Nearly 4,500 students will be living in on-campus housing this quarter, including Cain, who moved into her dorm room earlier this week.
"I totally feel safe," said Cain. "I would be at home and go to the grocery store and feel way more unsafe than walking through campus. Everyone is following the rules. Everyone is doing what they've got to do, so I really don't feel at risk here honestly."
Among the most significant measures put into place, Cal Poly is requiring all students who live and participate in on-campus activities to provide a negative test result for COVID-19 before they arrive on campus.
Students will also need to wear face coverings while on campus in most settings and strictly obey physical distancing requirements.
"We're asking that they complete daily self-screenings, self-monitoring, which would include logging into an app that we've acquired to confirm they are symptom free and that they are following the guidelines and protocols and that will clear them to participate in on-campus events," said Pedersen.
For students living on campus, they've also had to complete thorough training that educates them on the virus.
"It was a lot of basic information," said Nina Olson, freshman from Seattle. "You watched a lot of videos, but it also went through the symptoms and what to do if you do have it in a campus setting, which was really good information because this is new for everyone."
Administration is emphasizing it will not tolerate any behavior which does not follow the rules.
Any student found to be in violation is subject to significant punishment.
"Our message to them has been very clear, that this is not the time or the place," said Pedersen. "We all have a responsibility and expectation to follow the guidelines. We have been working proactively to educate students on what the consequence will be if they engage in those large gatherings and put the community as risk. We are in the process of suspension and an investigation of various reports that we've received already, so we're very serious about what we're saying."
According to the university, there will be about 5,500 students taking in-person courses for the fall.
The rest of the students, including many of those that are now living on campus, will take courses through a virtual format.
"I'm really excited," said Cain. "I love school. I've always loved school, so I'm really excited to meet people that way and just kind of get rolling and get into a routine."