By Caroline Vandergriff

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Many North Texas colleges and universities start the fall semester Monday, fully in-person for the first time in nearly a year-and-a-half.

Students have been moving into dorms and off-campus housing over the past week.

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“Dropping off our oldest son,” said Greg King, parent to a Texas Christian University (TCU) student. “We’re thrilled. We’re excited for him. It’s going to be a great four years.”

None of the universities in the metroplex are requiring vaccines at the moment, but some are mandating masks.

Students and staff at Sothern Methodist University (SMU), TCU and Dallas College will be required to wear masks inside campus buildings.

UNT is requesting that all campus visitors comply with a new mandate from the city of Denton to wear a face covering indoors per CDC guidance for our region. As a public university, the University of North Texas (UNT) says it is abiding by Governor Abbott’s directive that it is not able to mandate mask wearing on campus.

Masks will be optional at UNT Dallas, Dallas Baptist University, Collin College, Tarrant County College, UT Dallas and UT Arlington.

“I have a 9 a.m. science class, so pretty excited,” said Leo Boswell, who is starting his first year at UNT.

He’s relieved it will be on campus. “I was kind of concerned it was just going to go back online,” Boswell said. “And if it did, I honestly probably would have taken a gap year and just let it all pass.”

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UNT junior Luke Miller only got a semester-and-a-half of a normal college experience before the pandemic hit. “I did have to leave the dorms early because of COVID, and I got to experience the at-home experience and some commuting,” he said.

Miller has mixed feelings about the return to in-person instruction.

“We’ve been watching the numbers just go up and up and up,” Miller said. “It’s getting bad again with the delta variant.”

Most universities are encouraging students who haven’t gotten the vaccine to do so and are offering it for free on campus.

“I went ahead and got the vaccine,” said Karxyriah Ashley, a junior at UNT. “I immediately thought I didn’t want to come to school without the vaccine just because I think it will hopefully reduce the chances of getting sick.”

UNT is also conducting mandatory COVID-19 testing at certain points in the semester, with the first testing interval being August 16 – September 10. Additional testing intervals will be determined and announced. Vaccinated individuals can opt-out of the mandatory testing requirement by uploading proof of vaccination by Sept. 10. If students or staff choose not to submit their proof of vaccine, the university is requiring COVID testing that is provided on campus.

Other schools have different testing requirements.

The precautions are geared towards making the semester a safe and successful one for so many students eager for a more normal college experience.

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“I miss my friends, and I miss the chance to make more friends in my classes,” Miller said.

Caroline Vandergriff