AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Across the United States, higher education institutions are in the midst of planning for their upcoming spring semesters, having students come back to their classes in both in-person and virtual fashions.

However, with the rise of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, multiple higher education entities throughout the county are debating whether or not to host in-person classes at the beginning of the Spring 2022 semester.

The two major higher education entities in the Amarillo area told MyHighPlains.com they are moving forward with their respective spring semesters as normal while continuing to take COVID-19 safety precautions.

Amarillo College

In-person classes are expected to begin for Amarillo College’s Spring 2022 semester on Jan. 18, with the college continuing to offer online and tech-supported class options for those who may not feel comfortable attending courses in person, while maintaining the status quo regarding COVID-19 safety protocols for those who do, including continued increased cleaning procedures and the encouragement of social distancing.

According to the Amarillo College website, the college has reported 822 cumulative COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, of which 625 were related to students and 197 were related to employees. In the Fall 2021 semester, the college reported a total of 312 reported COVID-19 cases, of which 250 were related to students and 62 related to employees.

For Amarillo College, online classes do not require students to log in at specific times each week, with due dates being designated for assignments at the beginning of the semester. Tech-supported learning gives students the chance to log in for a live lecture using a technology-based system at specific times each week.

While some classes will be strictly online, or tech-supported, the campuses of Amarillo College will stay open, with student services and facilities continuing to be available.

According to their website, Amarillo College states that they expect employees to be aware of COVID-19 symptoms, as well as practice frequent healthy hygiene habits. While masking is optional on Amarillo College campuses, they are asked to be aware of social distancing and cover coughs and sneezes.

For more information about the college’s COVID-19 safety protocols, visit Amarillo College’s website.

West Texas A&M University

Courtesy West Texas A&M University

Before the Spring 2022 semester begins on Monday (Jan. 10), officials with West Texas A&M University released their plans for the upcoming semester, continuing to stress the importance of COVID-19 safety protocols while keeping in-person learning in place.

According to the university’s COVID-19 webpage, West Texas A&M University has reported 1,377 total COVID-19 cases among students and employees since March 1, 2020. Out of the total, 1,193 were students at the time they reported, and 184 were employees at the time they reported. The university started reporting the results of COVID-19 tests they conducted on July 24, 2020. Since then, the university has reported 11,177 COVID-19 tests with an overall positivity rate of 6.09%.

West Texas A&M will be fully open for in-person instruction and events in the Spring 2022 semester. Officials from the university say they will continue to follow the direction of state officials, along with the Texas A&M University System and local health agencies.

While West Texas A&M will host in-person classes, the university will continue the following protocols in the upcoming semester:

  • Standard cleaning protocols will resume across all campuses. Hand sanitizer and wipes are provided in campus facilities;
  • Contract tracing will continue to be conducted by the university. Individuals are asked to report if they have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 or if someone tests positive for COVID-19 to covid19@wtamu.edu;
  • COVID-19 testing and vaccines are available for free to faculty, staff and students through Student Medical Services;
  • Guenther Hall is designated as student isolation/quarantine housing. 

“WT encourages you to be diligent in helping mitigate COVID-19 infections by using good personal hygiene, limiting your personal exposure and by staying home and getting tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms,” officials from the university said on their website.

Students will also have the opportunity to receive funds provided to the university through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, students can apply for funds through the WT Cares program.

The funds they receive can be used to “address unique needs and financial hardships resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” including tuition and fees, medical expenses, technology purchases as well as housing and food insecurity. WT Cares grant funds will be available through March 31. For more information, visit the university’s website.

For more information about the university’s COVID-19 safety protocols, visit West Texas A&M University’s website.