SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly students went back to school on Monday as the university kicked off its new fall quarter.
The start of the new school year also marked the return of in-class instruction.
Returning students came back to a campus much different than the one they left in the spring when COVID-19 forced all instruction to go entirely online.
"Very, very empty and kind of strange," said student Jacqueline Hewitt.
All day long, walkways and sidewalks that are normally full of students during the school year, were nearly empty.
"It's sort of an eerie feeling walking around, especially where you hear the bell tower," said student Jonathan Herrera. "Right about now, there's usually tons and tons of kids walking up and down this street and now it looks like I'm the only one."
Most of the university's 4,000+ courses will be taught entirely online.
However, about 12 percent will offer in-class instruction, with most of those being labs and activities that have been determined as critical to student success and to degree completion.
"So much of my learning comes from peer to peer interaction and being able to easily ask questions from professors, so the fact that we can get something going like that is a step in the right direction," said Herrera. "I'm grateful for having some sort of in-person classes for sure, and I hope we can continue to have more."
All classes are being held with strict safety measures in place.
"We had to bring face masks," said Hewitt. "Everyone is six feet apart. We had only six people in the class because she spread it out."
The new guidelines are intended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but they're also presenting many new challenges.
"It's kind of confusing because (my professor) is talking through a mask, and you're trying, to like, stay safe and keep your distance, but you're also want to ask questions when you have to show them stuff, so it's really complicated," said Hewitt.
Herrera, who is in his third year at Cal Poly, said he will have to figure out new logistics to handle his new combination of virtual and in-class instruction.
"I had a class from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. online and now I have a class from 12:10 p.m. to 3 p.m. in person, so I have to figure out where take those class and get from one place to another," said Herrera.
The fall quarter will conclude on Dec. 4.
Most in-class instruction will finish before Thanksgiving.