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story.lead_photo.caption Classes at William Woods University will begin Aug. 17. Photo by Olivia Garrett / Fulton Sun.

William Woods University students might not be back on campus yet, but some of their stuff is.

This week, students began dropping off and lugging belongings into their rooms ahead of their return for the fall.

Move-in officially begins in August, and classes will resume Aug. 17.

"(Early drop-off) ensures the best possible use of physical distance," William Woods spokesperson John Fougere said.

Students stopping by campus through Friday each have an assigned two-hour window during which they can unload belongings, as well as schedule a tour of campus and meetings with advisers.

When August rolls around, all they'll have to bring is themselves and any odds and ends not yet in their rooms.

The college hopes to avoid the typical college move-in scenario of a campus full of cars and families crowding hallways and sidewalks.

"They won't have to do the whole move-in process all at once with all of the other students at the same time," Fougere said.

Back in March, Callaway County's first identified cases of COVID-19 were William Woods students. At the time, campus was shut down.

In the months since, cases have popped up across the county — last week, the number of identified cases totaled 89, with 73 recovered, 15 active and one death.

To help limit the chance of students spreading the illness during back-and-forth trips between their home communities and the Fulton campus, the university announced plans to change the fall semester schedule earlier this summer. Classes are starting a week earlier than originally planned and will run until Thanksgiving break.

After the break, classes will move online for final exams and students will not return to campus until the spring semester. Students will not have an October fall break or Labor Day off.

According to William Woods's COVID-19 safety policy, students will be expected to attempt to keep six feet of physical separation between themselves and others when on campus this fall in order to prevent the spread of the illness.

Face coverings will be required when physical distance isn't possible, such as when students are entering classrooms or in hallways and common areas. Staff will cover their faces while working in common areas.

Exceptions include if someone is alone, in their residence hall room, participating in exercise or athletic activities, sitting in their seats in classrooms or spending time outdoors distanced from others. Instructors will wear masks while entering classrooms, but are allowed to uncover their faces while teaching.

Students are expected to provide their own masks, but departments will have extras for if a student shows up to class without one.

"As with all of our other efforts to maintain our campus operations in the coming year while minimizing the threat posed by the virus, we will need everyone's cooperation to ensure this policy is successful," William Woods President Jahnae Barnett wrote in a July 16 message to the university community.

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