Houston universities welcome students in new normal around COVID-19

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As K-12 schools work out the best way to start the new year, colleges and universities are also having that discussion. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill just made headlines for having to shut down within a week of the fall semester due to COVID-19 clusters.

ABC13 was there as students and their families packed up blue bins and made their way to their dorm at the University of Houston this week.

"I feel nervous. I feel great, at the same time. I'm just full of emotions to be honest with you," freshman Amarion Johnson said.

Juleria Jackson-Edwards and her husband are moving their son in from Corpus Christi. They've been doing their best to prep him.

"Constant reminder every day that this is no joke. This is serious business, so keep it safe," she explained.

SEE ALSO: Houston-area school districts let some students return to campus

Hazel Lazo is also hoping for the best for her daughter.

"That is always the fear and concern, but I think she knows how to take care of herself and knows what to do," she said.

Like most schools, University of Houston has a mask policy, which we saw everyone complying with. There's also plenty of signage and reminders about social distancing.

"I think that we can predict that it's likely we'll have some cases on campus. The question is, do you need to shut down after one week if you have a certain number of cases? I think we're going to take it one day at a time, working with the health department," Dr. Stephen Spann, vice president for Medical Affairs at U of H said.

Texas Southern University started class Wednesday virtually, and won't be in-person until Sept. 14. Prairie View A&M launched a task force to handle virus issues, and are testing students and athletes as they come back to campus. They've also invested in PPE and sneeze guards around campus.

SEE ALSO: Inside look at virtual learning for 1 Katy ISD family

Texas A&M has an all-in-one resource guide online to break down reporting cases and have access to testing. The University of Texas has also made changes and in-person instruction will only be from Aug. 26 to Nov. 25.

"There's a lot of chaos and confusion as to what the expectations are, what college students should be doing. A lot of inconsistency. My biggest fear is that there are going to be people getting sick, taking COVID home to their parents," Sam Houston State University Mathematics professor Ken Smith said.

Despite the risks, everyone is trying to stay positive.

"I think if we protect ourselves and just a little bit open-minded and protect ourselves and each other, we can get through this."

The good news is: the majority of the student body at U of H will be learning remotely. Only 17% have at least one in-person class.

Follow Erica Simon on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.