MILWAUKEE — After two months back at home, students at Marquette and the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee were welcomed back to campus eager to finish up their second half of the school year safely in person.
"I'm really excited to be back," said Marquette sophomore, Ben Rojas.
"It's really great. It's like I'm almost uncomfortable I don't remember what it's like to be on campus," said UWM sophomore Quinn Stephens.
It's a sight two months in the making. For the first time since before Thanksgiving, students were back on campus at Marquette University and UWM for the start of the spring semester.
"Last semester was like a ghost town and now it's lively," said Stephens.
As remote, hybrid, and in-person classes begin, officials at UWM say many of the COVID-19 safety protocols they implemented in the fall remain the same this semester.
"All students are going to get tested once a week if you live on campus, but if you live around the area and are still attending in-person classes it's every other week," said Stephens.
"I've got my mask on, I got hand sanitizer in my backpack and I've been washing my hands," said UWM senior, Dylan Hefty.
The traditional winter break was unusually long due to new pandemic protocols. Typically, students would come back for a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving. But Marquette and other schools decided to keep students home to finish out the fall semester. Now that they're back, there are even more protocols in place to ensure in-person learning remains sustainable.
"We're doing surveillance testing this semester, which we didn't do last semester. I think we really are a position in a good place to find where there may be hotspots to get those students taken care of to make sure we can finish this semester strong in May," said Mary Janz, the executive director of housing and residence life Marquette University.
Officials at Marquette and UWM hope a return to normal isn't far off, with COVID-19 vaccines now being widely distributed in Wisconsin.
Other COVID-19 safety policies that students and staff will have to follow include social distancing, completing their daily COVID-19 checks, and students continuing to monitor their body temperatures.