POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) - It's back to school for students and faculty at Idaho State University on Monday.
After nearly two years since the start of the pandemic, the ISU community is optimistic about campus life going forward.
"Last semester, we saw a seven week decrease heading into the end of the semester in overall positive cases, and that was promising to us," said ISU Associate Vice President Stuart Summers.
Summers says the university is currently operating at Level White, which requires face coverings to be worn on-campus. Summers says they are hopeful they can move back to Level Orange in the future, which would resemble a more traditional format.
But Summers also says having classes in-person is vital to the success of the Bengal community.
"A lot of our programs are also very hands-on and require a high level of in-person instruction to make sure they get the best education possible, and so we're focused on that," Summers said. "Doing it in a safe way, so that nothing gets in the way of their education, but also keeping them safe from COVID-19."
Returning to campus means the world to ISU senior and Romania native Daria Margineanu.
"When COVID hit, I had to go home," Margineanu said. "I was taking ISU classes, but I was taking them from Romania with a nine hour time change. I was taking evening classes and that was a whole different experience."
She says ISU did an excellent job with online instruction, but for her, it didn't replace the experience of being back on campus.
"I was very happy to come back and be with all my teachers and be able to go see my teachers whenever I feel like and be able to come back into the students community and have all of my classmates back," Margineanu said.
Freshman Broox Young is also looking forward to returning to campus after taking time off when the pandemic hit.
He says online classes didn't really work with his Philosophy major.
"I've noticed for communication, I rely heavily on my body language," Young said. "Even on zoom, it's really hard even to recognize body language over a video medium."
With the return of all the other Bengals, the student body is ready to get back to work.
"Last fall, we saw an enrollment increase for the first time in ten years at Idaho State University," Summers said. "That was exciting for us. We're seeing people coming back to the university. There's a buzz. The enthusiasm is palpable in our community."