ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - After a year of mostly remote learning, students are back on campus for the first day of classes at Macalester College in St. Paul. In addition to having books and backpacks, students must also be vaccinated against COVID-19.
"I feel safe knowing that the people around me and the people I spent time with eating, walking around, in classes are vaccinated," said Milkee Bekele, a sophomore.
School officials say 98 percent of students and staff have either received the vaccine or asked for an exemption.
Students had to upload proof of vaccination through a medical portal while staff had to fill out a form saying they had gotten the vaccine before they could return to school grounds.
"That is the public health measure that will protect us the most," said Paul Overvoorde the director of COVID-19 operations at Macalester. "It does the most as far as spreading the virus and it also does the most against the most severe consequences for those who do contract the virus."
Students must also get a COVID-19 test when they arrive on campus. They are also encouraged to wear masks when they're inside and the school has set up tents so students can eat outside when the weather permits.
"We're optimistic things will continue to allow us to stay in-person this school year," said Overvoorde. "Whether that happens will depend on things completely out of our control."
Students FOX 9 talked to said they support the vaccine mandate.
"It’s not a guarantee about not getting sick, but it’s another layer of caution and protection, so definitely increases my feelings of safety," said Hannah O'Connor, a sophomore.
They hope it allows them to stay on campus for the rest of the school year.
"It's been a wild ride, but I'm really happy to be here," said O'Connor.