It hasn’t quite hit Austin Pringle yet that he’s going to miss out on a huge chunk of his senior year at Keystone College.
“Right now, I’m more concerned about the coronavirus in general and how long this is going to take,” he said. “Once it hits me that I’m not going back to school, I’m going to be a lot more disappointed and heartbroken.”
On March 18, Keystone College announced plans to transition to online learning for the rest of the semester, starting March 23. This followed a previous announcement of the college extending its spring break for another week as concerns grew over COVID-19.
“Our top priority is and continues to be the health and safety of the entire Keystone College community,” said Keystone College spokesperson Fran Calpin. “We’re following all state and federal guidelines and requirements, but still providing an effective method for students to continue their education.”
“These are unprecedented times,” he added.
Just a day later, Gov. Tom Wolf called for the mandatory shutdown of all non-life-sustaining businesses’ physical locations, including colleges and universities. Keystone students had to vacate their dorms no later than March 20, and the entire campus has been closed to the public.
Keystone has also cancelled the following events: Accepted Students Days, April Open House, April Career Fair, Grad Finale, All-College Honors Convocation and the Spring Undergraduate Research and Creativity Celebration.
No decision has been made about this spring’s commencement ceremony planned for May 9, though Calpin said an announcement will come as soon as possible.
also impacted study abroad plans for students across the country, including Erika Schwoyer, a junior wildlife/environmental biology major at Keystone.
Schwoyer was supposed to spend this semester in Tanzania completing a wildlife management studies program, but had to come home after just
two months. The realization was “gut wrenching” for Schwoyer and her peers.
“After having just spent the best, most incredible and breathtaking trip of our lives in the Serengeti thinking that everything was fine, we had our hearts absolutely broken,” she said. “We had to find plane tickets home within the week. Everything happened so fast.”
After her flight landed on March 19, she began a minimum two-week self-quarantine at home out of caution. While Tanzania isn’t a Level 3 Travel Health Notice country, there was one confirmed case, and Schwoyer traveled through airports with people from other countries.
Right now, she’s unsure of how leaving Tanzania early will impact the progress toward her degree. One course was completed, three were nearly finished, and one wasn’t started yet.
“I have no doubts that the faculty and staff at Keystone will help me in any way that they can to make sure I have the opportunity to graduate on time,” she said. “I am working closely with my advisers in the science department and they are helping me every step of the way through this crazy situation to help me figure out my options and stay on track, which I am very grateful for.”
Online at keystone.edu/covid19, the college has been posting updates and answering frequently asked questions regarding the changes.
All other on-campus activities have been cancelled. Keystone Fitness and College Green Eatery & Market remain closed. The community can patronize Steak n’ Shake for drive-thru orders only.
Additionally, the Colonial States Athletic Conference has suspended all events.
Pringle, a senior psychology major from Factoryville, has already gotten his most challenging courses out of the way, putting him in a good spot for finishing out the semester online.
However, he feels empathetic for students who may have a more difficult time completing their coursework this semester.
Besides being unable to say goodbye to friends, he feels especially disappointed that plans for commencement remain up in the air.
Overall, he knows whichever decision the college makes will be for the best.
“I understand why they’re doing it, and I understand why it’s necessary,” he said.