Hundreds of colleges walk back fall reopening plans and opt for online-only instruction

Hundreds of colleges walk back fall reopening plans and opt for online-only instruction

Hundreds of colleges announced early this summer they would be reopening for in-person instruction this fall. As start dates near, many backtrack, citing a worsening health crisis. The upcoming fall semester will be different than what many expected, but there are still plenty of ways to succeed in an impromptu online education. When Lee Pucklis lost his job and his medical insurance was expiring, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do about some much-needed dental work. Enter Jim Schall of Bel Air Smile Partners, who came into the Havre de Grace office on his day off, spending several hours working on Pucklis’ mouth and saving him thousands before his insurance expired. Thousands of students with weakened immune systems fear they’re being left behind at colleges that resume in-person classes without online options. Publisher Nancy Meyer said, "Amid a pandemic that prevents us from safely returning to the office for an undetermined period of time, the company decided to formally close the Orange Avenue office on October 30, 2020.” MONMOUTH, Ore. – Keyonna Jones helped push her game and the Western Oregon University women’s basketball team forward throughout the 2019-20 season and although

Hundreds of colleges announced early this summer they would be reopening for in-person instruction this fall. As start dates near, many backtrack, citing a worsening health crisis.

Hundreds of colleges have reversed or altered their reopening plans in the past several weeks after taking stock of COVID-19 testing availability, student and faculty safety concerns, state regulations and the worsening public health crisis.

Through May, June and July, many colleges announced in-person reopening plans that included social distancing protocols, mask-wearing requirements, low-density living arrangements and regular testing for students and employees.

As many reopening plans were finalized, the coronavirus pandemic surged across the United States. Northeastern states home to the first viral hotspots — including New Jersey and New York — have largely quelled their worst outbreaks, but case counts have spiked in the southern and southwestern states over the past month. Case counts are swelling in California and reaching new peaks in Colorado, Louisiana, Washington and Wisconsin. As of Tuesday, the United States had more total cases than any other country in the world and the largest share of cases as a proportion of the country’s population.

Many colleges planning to bring students back to campus for the fall semester have reversed course entirely and opted for online-only instruction. Smith College president Kathleen McCartney announced last week that the college would not bring students back to campus this fall, citing “new scientific evidence, as well as recent and troubling trends nationally and in Massachusetts.” Days later, Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts announced that it would not re-open for in-person instruction this fall.

Berklee College of Music in Boston said July 22 that it would conduct a virtual fall semester. This was in part due to travel restrictions and the difficulty in getting international students back on campus, said Betsy Newman, Berklee’s senior vice president for student enrollment and engagement.

Goucher College outside of Baltimore and Salem College in North Carolina have also scrapped in-person instruction plans.

Some colleges have only delayed their in-person start dates. The University of Maryland announced Monday that it would delay all in-person undergraduate instruction for two weeks until Sept. 14, citing the high COVID-19 positivity rate in its home county, Prince George’s County. Brown University announced Tuesday that it would bring a significant number of students back to campus in October at the earliest, delaying previous plans. Brown is still determining when and how many students will be able to return, if any. The decision is notable after Brown’s president wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times in April arguing for campuses to reopen for several reasons, including that low-income students face barriers to learning remotely, that the economy depends on it and that colleges need the revenue.

Previously, the University of Maryland and Brown University were planning to reopen in-person at the beginning of the fall semester.

Chapman University in southern California announced recently that it would begin the fall semester with online instruction. The university had been waiting on further guidance from California governor Gavin Newsom and made the decision to go online as the public health situation in the state worsened.

Chapman’s decision, though crucial for students’ and employees’ safety, will contribute to the university’s growing deficit.

“These are very expensive propositions for universities,” said Daniele Struppa, president of Chapman. “Between lost revenue and additional expenditures, we are looking at a deficit of $100 to $110 million. So that’s a significant amount of money.”

Winthrop University learned that containing the spread of COVID-19 on campus would be difficult, and its leaders opted to delay in-person instruction until Sept. 7 out of an abundance of caution. Two students tested positive for COVID-19 over the summer.

“We learned that even with small numbers of students, community spread is going to happen when the numbers across our state were steadily increasing. Two students did test positive and were treated,” Judy Longshaw, a spokesperson for the university, wrote in in an email. “One of the important takeaways for us was that sending students home if possible for quarantine and/or isolation is our preference. Sick students need care, and we are not staffed to provide the level of care some students who come down with the virus may need.”

Miami University in Ohio, Illinois State University and the University of California-Merced have also delayed in-person start dates, among many others.

The August changes will affect many students who were planning to return to campuses this fall. For some, it brought feelings of déjà vu.

Benjy Renton, an East Asian studies student and rising senior at Middlebury College, was in China in January when the COVID-19 outbreak worsened in the country.

“I saw things go wrong the first time, and I had to see it go wrong the second time,” he said.

Renton has been tracking colleges’ plan reversals and alterations since the University of Southern California announced in early July that a majority of undergraduate instruction would be held online. The university has since delayed students’ return to campus and said that all instruction will be held online for at least part of the fall term.

The bulk of reopening change announcements were made in late July and early August, according to Renton’s data. Last week, more than 40 colleges released changes to their reopening plans. Half of the colleges Renton has documented cite the ongoing public health crisis as a leading reason for the changes. Student health and safety, testing availability and COVID-19 transmission on campus were also cited in some cases.

Renton has focused on tracking two trends: when colleges announce changes and where colleges are announcing changes.

Peer institutions in similar geographic areas tend to follow each other’s lead, he said. For example, in Washington, D.C., George Washington University announced July 27 that it would reverse its plans and conduct all instruction online in the fall. Georgetown University followed suit two days later, and American University announced the same on July 30.

Location has also played a role. New Jersey for example has strict requirements about what conditions need to be met before colleges can reopen. The College of New Jersey, Princeton University, Saint Peter’s University and Rowan University are conducting all or nearly all classes online.

If colleges do bring students back, Renton is not optimistic about how long they will be able to stay open in-person this fall. He compares residential campuses to aircraft carriers, cruise ships and nursing homes — situations where people live in close proximity.

“All the ones that we’ve seen just don’t go well. Theoretically, all the science is telling us no,” Renton said.

As of Tuesday, Middlebury College is planning to bring students back in the fall. Renton intends to return to campus.

“I’m going back for now,” he said. “From data that we got last night, most students intend to return to campus. I think we’ll hopefully just hope for the best, and hope that we’re able to stay as long as we can.”


Author: By

Emma Whitford

Military students — unsure of what to expect for online classes in the fall? You aren’t alone

Military students — unsure of what to expect for online classes in the fall? You aren’t alone

As colleges and universities across the country begin reopening for the fall semester, hundreds have made the transition to mostly or completely online learning. Online learning is common for military students, but the abrupt transition may leave some unsure of how to succeed in an online learning environment.

Online learning can often provide a more flexible education for military students who may be juggling a family, job or training along with their higher education. But for those who prefer an in-person learning experience, an online education can be a unique challenge.

Many colleges and universities went online in mid-March once the virus hit the U.S., and since then have been devising plans to reopen for the fall, whether it be in person, online or a hybrid option. As of Aug. 5, 26 percent of institutions still had not determined what learning method would be used for students returning in the fall, and many of those who have decided on a path remain open to change as the semester continues.

“I’d say higher ed, in general, at this point is still grappling with what to do for the fall,” William Hubbard, Student Veterans of America chief of staff, said. “And as the pandemic continues to rage on, that seems to change on a daily basis for individual schools.”

Both Hubbard and Emily Ives, the program director at UCLA’s Veteran Resource Center, said creating a daily routine is one of the most important ways to succeed in online learning. Ives recommended putting on normal clothes, avoiding distractions while in class and creating a designated study space as tips to adapt to a remote learning environment.

“Even more so now, you could book yourself back to back to back with meetings and appointments, so make sure you take breaks,” Ives said.

Ives said the Veterans Resource Office at UCLA successfully created a virtual office for military students to connect and ask questions. Staff being accessible to students online and being flexible with different forms of communication are some ways colleges and universities can continue to help students with remote learning, Ives said.

Tuition and fees are also a notable concern among many college students, as universities charge full price for an education that may be partially or completely online.

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“Now you have to find a way to justify an exorbitant cost for a class that otherwise someone could basically get by going on the internet themselves and teaching themselves,” Hubbard said. “It’s, I think, even more exacerbated by the fact that a lot of these universities are really struggling when it comes to their income.”

Ives said that although there is a difference with transitioning classes and services online, the same resources are still available to students, just in a different format.

Paul Lazaro, assistant director of the Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services at Rutgers University Newark campus, said he expects student veterans to “assess the situation and approach it with the right amount of caution” when making a decision whether to do in-person or online classes this fall.

In recent months, Congress has passed a series of measures designed to minimize the impact of the shift to online classes for students who rely on GI Bill benefits for tuition and living expenses. Typically, students in online-only classes receive only a portion of the full veteran education benefits, but legislation passed in the spring allows VA officials to continue paying the full amount to students forced into remote learning because of the pandemic.

In addition, lawmakers have approved bills preserving work-study programs (and stipends) as those have shifted to online-only formats, ensuring that student veterans who rely on that extra income won’t see their money cut off.

However, those authorities last only until the end of 2020. Congress will have to look to extend those provisions if many colleges continue their remote learning plans into 2021.


Author: Hannah Graf, Leo Shane III

Harford dentist Jim Schall performed $8,000 of work on day off for man who was losing insurance due to coronavirus

Harford dentist Jim Schall performed $8,000 of work on day off for man who was losing insurance due to coronavirus

Smile Partners of Havre de Grace dentist Dr. Jim Schall, left, prepares patient Lee Pucklis for a follow up exam during a visit Friday afternoon after some extensive dentistry work performed recently by Schall and his staff.

Smile Partners of Havre de Grace dentist Dr. Jim Schall, left, prepares patient Lee Pucklis for a follow up exam during a visit Friday afternoon after some extensive dentistry work performed recently by Schall and his staff. (Matt Button / The Aegis/Baltimore Sun Media)

Lee Pucklis had a problem. The coronavirus pandemic had cost him his job and, with his medical insurance expiring at the end of July, he didn’t have much time to get done some much-needed dental work.

Enter Jim Schall of Bel Air Smile Partners. When an appointment opened up July 27, Schall came into the Havre de Grace office on his day off, spending several hours working on Pucklis’s mouth and saving him thousands before his insurance expired.

“I sincerely believe, he did it professionally, he did it in good will and fellowship. I really do,” Pucklis, 71, said. “He saved me close to $8,000 that my dental insurance absorbed.”

Pucklis lives and worked in Philadelphia, but is no stranger to Harford County, visiting often to look after and care for his 94-year-old mother. He takes his mother to different appointments, including dental appointments with Schall at Bel Air Smile Partners’ Forest Hill office.

Since March, Pucklis has been spending more time in Harford County after he lost his health education job, a gighe had worked for the past 19 years.

“I test third and fourth year medical students regarding their behavior in a patient-doctor relationship,” Pucklis said of his job, which was affiliated with the National Board of Medical Examiners.

COVID-19 forced his dismissal. With classes being done online due to COVID-19, there were no students to do the live exams.

“Health education as well as general education has changed and we’re all trying to find out how best to handle this,” Pucklis said. The lost job was a concern, but the loss of medical insurance was a bigger problem.

“I needed dental work and what happened is, I’m down here and my mother’s dentist, I put a call in to [him],” he said. “Well, he couldn’t do much at first. All they could do, I could get my teeth cleaned.”

From that appointment, though, it led to a day in the dentist chair.

“When I told them, they created a treatment plan for me, which included nine crowns, a partial denture, two fillings, a root canal and two extractions,” Pucklis said. “That’s what needed to be done and I had four days to get this done before my insurance went out on me.”

Schall knew Pucklis from his trips to the office with his mother.

“Lee has been bringing his mom for years and he’s been talking about getting some things done and it kind of went on fast track once he lost his job with the COVID thing,” Schall said.

A big problem, however, was there was no appointment space at either the Forest Hill or Havre de Grace offices of Bel Air due to the backlog from May due to the pandemic.

But Pucklis caught a break. There was a cancellation in the Havre de Grace office July 27.

Pucklis got the appointment and he was scheduled for the root canal. Schall was scheduled to have the day off, but said he would come into Havre de Grace on and do everything he conceivably could.

“He called me and I happened to have that Monday off, so instead of taking it off, I just went in and got one of my assistants and we just kind of helped him out that day,” Schall said. “Who wants to go to the dentist with a toothache? But you know what, that’s when you need the dentist.

“We spent the afternoon with him. It’s a lot. We got all that done in a day.”

Pucklis said he was in the chair from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.

“He completed everything but the partial plate that I need because it takes time for my mouth to heal,” Pucklis said.

Schall also gave Pucklis a ride home, which included stops at a pharmacy. There, Pucklis ran into an issue with a prescription for an opioid that wasn’t filled. Pucklis said he‘d be back with his dentist and Schall came in and filled out the script right there.

“It was way beyond anything that I could have conceivably had happened to me at all,” Pucklis said of the whole experience.

Schall said he tries to take care of all of his patients the best he can.

“I try to treat most everybody how I want to be treated myself,” Schall said. “I just have a great staff and that’s one of things that makes it so easy. They’re really helpful, they really care, they do everything that I need, they do everything that the person in the chair needs. It really is just a nice thing.”

After 33 years as a dentist, Schall said he still enjoys his job and he likes helping people.

Pucklis is pleased as pudding. “This is Harford County, to do this,” he said. “It would never happen in Philadelphia. That’s for sure.”

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Author: Randy McRoberts

'Leaving us behind': High-risk students ask, why can't all college courses be offered online?

‘Leaving us behind’: High-risk students ask, why can’t all college courses be offered online?

College sophomore Cameron Lynch has lived the past five months in a single square mile, only venturing outside her home a couple of times a week for early-morning or late-night walks. 

“It’s already a stressful time to be immunocompromised,” said Lynch, who has Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and a form of muscular dystrophy. “Now, a good portion of able-bodied people are going back to the way life was, leaving us behind.”

Several weeks ago, Lynch, who attends the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, authored a letter expressing her frustrations and posted it to social media. She never expected the response she would get: Dozens of immunocompromised college students from across the U.S. started reaching out to her, so they formed a support group to share information on the policies their schools were implementing.

Lynch is just one of the thousands of college students with weakened immune systems who are stuck inside amid the the coronavirus pandemic and navigating treacherous back-to-school dynamics. While many colleges and universities offered all classes online last spring, many aren’t doing the same this fall, leaving immunocompromised students stressed out, rearranging schedules and locked in lengthy exchanges with accommodation offices.

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People with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of getting severely sick from COVID-19 and may be sick for a longer period of time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those with conditions such as diabetes, sickle cell disease, chronic kidney disease and asthma are at greater risk, the CDC says.

“These are very real concerns for our immunocompromised students,” said Dr. Khalilah Gates, a pulmonary and critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Every immunocompromised state is not the same, so it is – as everything in COVID-19 has been – a risk-benefit discussion.”

Khalilah said returning to campus – particularly living in dorms – poses significant risks to immunocompromised students. People in that age group are also more likely to participate in extracurricular activities that may increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission and exposure, she said.

“What COVID-19 has taught us is the need to be flexible and the need to adapt,” Khalilah said. “If that means the ability to participate in online learning, then that needs to be something we consider for those that would benefit.” 

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Samantha Price, who has Type 1 diabetes, was one of the students who saw Lynch’s posts on social media. The two had met 10 years ago when they were both living in Richmond, Virginia.They had been participating in a theater program when Lynch saw Price whip out her insulin pump. Now, Price is helping Lynch coordinate the online support group for immunocompromised college students.

“We realized that we weren’t alone in the struggles,” said Price, a rising junior at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, who is pursuing communications and digital studies. “Both of us had been going back and forth with our universities, trying to get answers about how they would be supporting us.”

The group soon realized that while many universities were going fully or primarily online – about a quarter of four-year schools in the U.S. – or implementing a hybrid course model, not all were offering online students the same options as in-person learners.

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Price and Lynch argue that such policies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act – a 1990 law that guarantees equal protection for people with a wide range of disabilities – because students with disabilities do not have access to the same resources as everyone else. That’s why the two penned a letter to 12 public colleges and universities in Virginia to demand the institutions ensure equitable learning.

“Without remote learning options for all their classes, hundreds of immunocompromised students are being forced to either risk their health and attend in-person classes or make last-minute changes to their carefully designed schedules to switch to a limited variety of online courses,” the students wrote.

“We should not have to alter our college plans or disrupt our graduation timelines because of physical or cognitive conditions that put us at a greater risk, while normal students continue a forward path.”

Students who have difficulty attending traditional college classes have long been calling for greater access to online courses. The pandemic has only “heightened” the issue, said Robin Jones, director of the Great Lakes ADA Center in Chicago.

While the ADA requires institutions to explore what options are available to students expressing concerns, it does not require an institution to provide a program or service that they are not already providing, Jones said.

At the same time, the pandemic has demonstrated that schools were able to offer online classes in the spring, even if they hadn’t in the past, Jones said.

“So the argument that a college or university cannot offer a course remotely is somewhat negated because they already demonstrated that they are able to do so for everyone,” Jones said.

In March, the U.S. Department of Education released a brief “fact sheet” providing guidance to schools on how to address the risk of COVID-19 while protecting the civil rights of students. The guidance reminded schools that they must continue to comply with their non-discrimination obligations under federal civil rights laws, including the ADA.

Offering online options as “individually-oriented accommodations” runs the risk of excluding people with disabilities from university activities, the Accessible Campus Action Alliance, a group of faculty with disabilities and their allies, said in a June statement. The group called for “safe, equitable, and inclusive online-centric teaching” during the pandemic.

“Making online teaching the default, rather than the exception, would protect equity, health, and safety, while reducing the uncertainties regarding hybrid and in-person teaching in the fall,” the group wrote.

While the University of Mary Washington – where Price attends – initially planned for about half of all courses to be in-person or a mix of in-person and online, the university adjusted its plans last week, according to university spokesperson Lisa Chinn Marvashti. All courses will be online for the first three weeks, and courses “could be converted” to online settings as in-person classes resume, Marvashti said.

A spokesperson for the College of William and Mary – where Lynch attends – said that while not all courses will be offered remotely, students can adjust their schedules to include only courses that are being offered online.

“We certainly understand that there are members of our community who want or need to take all remote classes during this period. There are options that allow them to do this,” spokesperson Suzanne Clavet said.

“For others, there is desire to have classes taught in other modes. Our fall 2020 schedule is designed to meet as many of these needs as possible and provide as much flexibility as possible while still prioritizing the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students and greater community.”

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Tiffany Alsbury, a master’s student at Louisiana State University living with lupus, has been taking classes online since July from her Gulfport, Mississippi, home. In March, Alsbury underwent a treatment that severely compromised her immune system, so she’s been taking precautions to avoid contracting COVID-19.

Her classes are offered in-person, but she opted to take them online because it’s “safer.” Sitting at home has been “a battle,” she said.

“It’s just not the same as it being in person. It’s been a lot of extra hours of trying to communicate with professors. Sometimes, I’m not getting the same amount of education out of it,” Alsbury said. “I do think they’re trying their hardest to be accepting of all of us, but it is uncharted territory.”

Some schools are being proactive about accommodating their immunocompromised students. The University of Virginia is offering some in-person instruction but is making all courses available online, for example. Cameron Lynch’s sister, Kylie, who has severe asthma and a stomach condition and has been quarantining in her New York City apartment, said that her college, the New School, opted to go online-only, in part out of consideration for its immunocompromised students.

At the end of June, the New School notified its students in an email that all fall semester courses would be online, to “ensure that all students have continued access to classes” and to “address the specific safety concerns of students, faculty, and staff in high risk groups, including those who are immunocompromised,” according to the email obtained by USA TODAY.

Kylie Lynch said the school’s explicit recognition of students like her made her “feel understood.”

“People underestimate that the decision of whether or not to go back to school is literally life or death for some people,” she said. “Luckily, I didn’t have to make that choice. My school made it for me.”

‘The virus beat us’:Colleges are increasingly going online for fall 2020 semester as COVID-19 cases rise

Price and Lynch said they have heard back from five of the Virginia schools they contacted about offering more online courses but that “none of them have been willing to talk further about it.”

“They just restated everything we already knew,” Price said.

Several of the universities thanked Lynch and Price for sharing their concerns and said they would “work to accommodate students who wish to be fully online.” One university added that some courses “truly cannot” be offered online.

Price said she’s had to “fight and persist” to get her university to let her take her courses online this fall so that she doesn’t fall off track to graduate. Lynch said she had to drop half of her classes and rework her schedule, and she plans to take on a virtual internship in her free time.

“It’s been a hard summer, and I expect that the school year is going to be even harder,” Price said. “People think young people are out partying and doing whatever we want, but there’s a group of us who are having to sit inside and watch the rest of the world move on.”

Follow Grace Hauck on Twitter at @grace_hauck.


Orlando Sentinel to leave downtown office building after 69 years

Orlando Sentinel to leave downtown office building after 69 years

The Orlando Sentinel building Monday, May, 5, 2014. (Red Huber/Staff Photographer)

The Orlando Sentinel building Monday, May, 5, 2014. (Red Huber/Staff Photographer) (Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel)

The Orlando Sentinel announced Wednesday it will leave its downtown building, the newspaper’s home since 1951.

“After careful deliberation, we have decided to permanently vacate our Orange Avenue office,” Publisher and General Manager Nancy Meyer said in an email to Sentinel employees. “This decision was not made lightly or hastily. Instead, amid a pandemic that prevents us from safely returning to the office for an undetermined period of time, the company decided to formally close the Orange Avenue office on October 30, 2020.”

She added, “In the coming months we will continue to examine the workplace needs for the teams currently based at the downtown office. We will keep you informed of additional decisions as they are made. Until then, we ask that employees continue to work in remote status.”

The Sentinel has not owned its downtown campus since 2014, when the property was spun off to a separate company after the newspaper’s parent, Tribune Publishing, emerged from bankruptcy. The property is now owned by Miami-based developer Midtown Opportunities.

The Sentinel offices, along with others across the nation, have been mostly empty for the past five months because of the pandemic. But like many newspapers across the country, Sentinel reporters, photographers and editors have been working remotely.

In June, the Sentinel was sued by its landlord for not paying rent for three months during the coronavirus pandemic. According to an Orange Circuit Court lawsuit, Midtown Opportunities said it was owed about $370,000 for rent from April through June.

Midtown Opportunities lawyer Kristin Royal did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

Tribune Publishing spokesman Max Reinsdorf declined to comment on the lawsuit but issued a statement about the company’s decision to close the downtown Orlando headquarters.

“Out of an abundance of caution we do not anticipate having employees that can work remotely coming back into the office for the remainder of the year and into 2021,” he said. “With no clear path forward in terms of returning to work, and as the company evaluates its real estate needs in light of health and economic conditions brought about by the pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close the office.”

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 8, Tribune Publishing said the company had withheld April, May and June rent payments for “a majority of its facilities and requested rent relief from the lessors in various forms, including rent abatement, lease restructuring or lease terminations.”

The Sentinel’s lease on its building, which began in 2014, was not scheduled to expire until June 30, 2023.

The Sentinel building on Orange Avenue opened in 1951 as the home and printing facility for the Orlando Morning Sentinel and the Orlando Evening Star. More than 10,000 people toured the building for an open house in August of that year.

This picture from August 1951 shows the Sentinel's new building at 633 N. Orange Ave. Back then the building was home to the Orlando Morning Sentinel and the Orlando Evening Star.

This picture from August 1951 shows the Sentinel’s new building at 633 N. Orange Ave. Back then the building was home to the Orlando Morning Sentinel and the Orlando Evening Star. (Orlando Sentinel Archives/Orlando Sentinel)

Over the years, more buildings and property were added to the Sentinel’s downtown campus, which grew to more than two blocks between Orange and Magnolia Avenues.

In 2017, the newspaper closed its printing press operation and outsourced printing to a Gannett plant in Lakeland. In addition to the downtown printing plant, other buildings at the Sentinel’s campus have gone vacant except for the main building.

Other Tribune Publishing newspapers, including the South Florida Sun Sentinel, announced Wednesday they will not return to their buildings until 2021. Three other company newspapers, the New York Daily News, the Allentown Morning Call in Pennsylvania and the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., will join the Sentinel in permanently leaving their current office space.

Another Florida newspaper, The Miami Herald, announced in early June that it was moving out of its Doral newsroom and would operate remotely for the rest of 2020.

Sentinel staff writer Gabrielle Russon contributed to this story


Author: Roger Simmons

Keyonna Jones continues to work towards finishing a strong career at WOU

Keyonna Jones continues to work towards finishing a strong career at WOU

MONMOUTH, Ore. – Keyonna Jones helped push her game and the Western Oregon University women’s basketball team forward throughout the 2019-20 season and although the overall record wasn’t what the Wolves were hoping for, they continued to make a push coming close against several opponents to help set the table for future success.

As a junior, Jones did all she could to try and help lead the Wolves as she finished the year leading the team in points per game (11.0) and free throws made (66), while ending up second on the team in assists (65) and field goals made (99) and fourth in steals (20) while playing in 25 games that included 22 starts.

All of that work was noticed by the Great Northwest Athletic Conference coaches when she was tabbed to the All-Conference Team. To be recognized among the top players in the league was something certainly that Jones’ had been pushing for since arriving at WOU, but also where she ended up on the list will keep her driving for more in her final season.

“I think it was super awesome. It’s been one of my goals since I was a freshman at western to end up on that list. So, for it to actually happen was awesome. Though I am a little disappointed in myself because it was an honorable mention and I know that I am All-GNAC First Team material,” Jones said.

While her game was certainly recognized around the league, Jones knows there is still more that she can do to help improve not just her game, but the overall results for the team heading into her final collegiate year.

“The biggest takeaway from the season for me was that I can always improve my game. Whether that’s on offense or defense or just making more solid passes. I just like to always keep it in the back of my mind that someone’s always working harder than me. A big team takeaway is that without chemistry, we won’t go far. I think we need to be doing more open gyms and things like that so we can really understand the way each of us plays,” Jones said.

There was one game during the 2019-20 season that will always stand out for Jones. On a trip out to Montana to face MSU Billings, Jones had a game to remember. It was a career-high 28-point scoring night and she also added five rebounds as the Wolves nearly pulled the big win out on the road before falling just short in overtime. Aside from her own personal best game that night, another game that will always stand out from the year was the incredible overtime victory over one of the top teams in the league in Western Washington. WOU was able to grab the overtime win that night and shock the Vikings. The Wolves erased a 12-point third quarter deficit to send the game into overtime before winning it in two overtimes, 73-70.

“In those two games I had a lot of fun. I was definitely super focused and excited to get buckets in both games. Actually, in the game at MSU Billings, I ended up not starting and I think this is what led to me having a good game. I really wanted to show my coach that regardless if I start or not, I will still be one of the best players on the team. With that being said, I still had a lot of fun in both of those games. I think my teammates also did a really good job at getting me the ball when I was open and setting me up for success,” Jones said.

Every player enjoys the chance to play at home and Jones and the Wolves were no different. WOU ended up going 5-10 at home, posting almost all of their wins (6) from the season inside the NPE Building Gym. There was a key early regional victory at home against Cal State East Bay, the come-from-behind win over Corban in the closing moments, the upset win in OT over Western Washington, the win over MSU Billings and then the final win on Senior Night against Alaska. Although those were the wins at home from the season, WOU was in several other games that just got away which helps fuel the team knowing those games could’ve easily gone into the win column.

“I always like playing at home. It’s my favorite place to play in the conference. It’s nice to be able to sleep in my own bed the day of a game. I think it’s honestly upsetting to be close to so many teams being at home and to lose them. I know I have really good teammates and at the end of the day, I know the next time we should be the ones on top of those games and winning them, not the other way around,” Jones said.

Jones has been in the program as a true freshman and now once the coming season starts will be her final year in Monmouth. The focus for the coming season is continuing to work on individual games and making a push in some of those close games to have the stamina to take the win instead of the other way around.

“I think we can always work on our own individual games and try to be better individually. If we do that, then we can start to mesh as a team. I think another big thing we can do is just playing more together in the open gyms. If we do this, we will definitely get to know each other’s games a lot more and open up more chances for success. If we can do some of those things, I think we can be a better team overall. I’m very excited to be a senior this coming year. I’ve worked hard for the WOU basketball team for three years now and I’m excited to wrap it all up,” Jones said.

Being a senior generally comes extra responsibility with a leadership role. This is something that Jones feels she embraced from her first year and moving into being a senior and a leadership role is something that she has already handled and will look to expand on further.

“I’m very excited to be a senior. I’ve been playing basketball since the first grade and I’m just very excited to bring all those years of basketball to an end. As far as “taking a leadership role” goes, I feel as if I have been a leader on the WOU basketball team since I was a freshman. So, it doesn’t really feel like I’m stepping into a new role when I felt like I’ve had this role for a while. I think it may just look a little different with me being a senior,” Jones said.

Nine players return from last year’s team and six new recruits, so the upcoming season will have a familiar, but different feel to it. Of the new players, two will come in as transfers and the other four will be freshmen. This means early on Jones is definitely hoping to get some games in as a group to workout how each play together.

“I think that we are going to look like a completely new team. I think it maybe a struggle in the beginning because when you have so many new players, you need them to learn the plays and get the defense down pretty quick so that way you can start to practice and get everything down. I think once everyone starts to learn everything we will be just fine. I know the returners will be ready and I have no doubt in my mind that it will be the same for the new players. I think we’re definitely going to be a force to be reckoned with and I’m very excited,” Jones said.

While the season just wrapped up for the Wolves before COVID shutdown the sports world, she had to quickly adjust like the rest to taking classes online and also trying to workout on her own to stay ready for a return to campus.

“I think I have adjusted nicely. I kind of like the idea of being able to stay in your bed all day while still attending classes and what not. It has been sort of a challenge though because you have some teachers who have never had to do online teaching before and now they do. Overall it has gone well, but just an adjustment to trying to learn online with different teachers and in a very different situation. It’s tough not being on campus because now I don’t get to see a lot of the friendly faces that I’m so used to seeing all the time. I also miss being able to work out with my teammates, as that helped me get through a lot of workouts before knowing we were all in it together. Some of the workouts have been a little tougher on me since all of this started I would say,” Jones said.

Having already become a tough guard on defenses when it comes to driving and hitting the mid-range jumper, Jones will look to improve her three-point range after going 11-44 (25) from downtown last season.

“I would really like to improve my three-point shot. I think that is one of the big things lacking in my game right now. If I were to get that down consistently, I definitely believe that would just make me an even tougher guard,” Jones said.

The journey has taken Jones to a lot of places over the years with a lot of teammates and all of those experiences will stay with her well past her playing career.

“Some of the best times I’ve had at WOU were with my teammates. Whether that was on the bus for road trips or just at a slumber party. I’ve always had basketball close to home and because of that I’ve always been able to have a built-in family. I will never forget any of the girls I’ve played with at WOU, they all have a special place in my heart and I’m definitely going to miss that part,” Jones said.

While the plan to play the coming season remains up in the air, Jones has already started to think about alternate plans if the season is delayed further or only part of the year can be played.

“If COVID continues to be a big thing and eventually goes on to change how many games we play, I will be deciding on possibly redshirting because I have lots of goals I plan to reach my senior year and that’s not going to be possible if we end up playing half of the amount of games as scheduled,” Jones said.


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