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Students return to Molloy College as dorms reopen for spring semester

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Despite restrictions that remain in place as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, students at Molloy College in Rockville Centre are striving for some normalcy in their campus life. On Sunday and Monday, nearly 200 students returned to school and moved into its three residence halls for the spring semester — about 35 more students than lived on campus last fall. To ensure social distancing, they moved in by scheduled appointment, avoiding crowded elevators and hallways as they hauled in suitcases and supplies.

Marcella Dimino, a sophomore nursing major and a resident assistant in Bogner Hall, was helping students with the move-in process on Monday morning. She said that 193 beds would be occupied this semester, and she was looking forward to seeing more people out and about.

“Seeing people at the cafeteria, saying hi to people, that’s the best part,” Dimino said. “Last semester, although we did have residents, you could tell it was a little quieter. With the increase in the number of students, it’s going to be livelier.”

Her freshman year, she said, was a “normal college experience” for her at the beginning of the year, but many changes have been put in place this year. In addition to wearing masks and socially distancing, students must complete a Covid questionnaire each morning and have their temperatures taken twice a day. Those who live on campus are also required to be tested each week.

Last semester, Dimino said, Molloy administered PCR, or nasal swab, tests, but this semester the college is using saliva tests, which will help identify those who are asymptomatic. Those who test positive with a saliva test will be required to take a PCR test, she said.

Other changes include limiting residence halls to single- and double-occupancy rooms, and using automated temperature kiosks, installed at the entrances to residence halls and other campus buildings, which take forehead temperatures. Those who fail a temperature check are given instructions on the kiosk on how to get medical attention. Residence halls have also been equipped with air-purification systems that kill airborne virus particles using ionization technology.

Spring semester classes began on Tuesday, and while Molloy offers a combination of hybrid and online classes, in-person class sizes are being increased to approximately 30 percent of operating capacity, from 25 percent in the fall.

“There are a lot of benefits to living on campus,” Dimino said, noting one, the amount of time students save by not commuting. “We’re trying to get back a sense of normalcy as much as possible.”

She added that she feels safe living on campus. “When I’ve spoken to friends at other schools, it makes me realize how grateful I am to be here,” she said. “I’ve never felt uncomfortable.”

Last semester, there were fewer than 25 positive Covid-19 cases recorded among Molloy’s students and employees.

Jackie Simpson, a sophomore nursing major who returned on Monday to Fitzgerald Hall, also said she felt safe with the protocols in place. “It’s OK,” Simpson said of campus life during a pandemic. “We still get to go out and have some freedom.”

Mackenzie Wagner, a senior majoring in childhood education, moved back to her dorm room in Maria Regina Hall on Monday. She said felt “a little nervous,” but enjoys living on campus, even though there are notable differences, such as not being allowed to have visitors or visit other rooms.

Though her hometown of Syosset is just 20 miles away, Wagner said that commuting was never really an option for her. “I love being on campus — I want to be at campus events, I want to do my work on campus,” she said, “ and I want to avoid commuting.

“Honestly, my experience is basically the same,” she added. “I still love being here.”