Attendance rates for classes at Eastern Kentucky University have fallen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With most classes being online, instructors have had to adapt to the challenges of keeping class attendance rates at a good level and being understanding of the vastly different schedules many students are on due to the pandemic. Those who teach courses in person have had to adapt to the regulations in place to keep students and faculty members safe. 

In light of the situation, instructors have been told to enforce COVID-19 guidelines while remaining understanding of the circumstances students may be in, in regard to class attendance. 

“Classroom attendance is one of the markers for how well students will do in a course,” said Provost Jerry Pogatshnik. 

The attendance policy going into the Spring 2021 semester will remain officially unchanged, but will encourage students not to attend in-person classes if they feel ill and requires students to follow all COVID-19 guidelines while in class, as it has been for the Fall 2020 semester.  

According to the university attendance statement, “instructors should maintain flexible attendance policies to ensure that students are not penalized for class absences or for remaining at home if they are ill. The university attendance policy (Policy 4.1.6) will be suspended for the Fall 2020 semester to allow instructors to deviate from departmental attendance policies.” 

The suspension of Policy 4.1.6 means that students are not required to give advance notice for absences and are not required to have an official excuse to miss class, such as a doctor’s note. 

Though there is no official number, the Provost’s Office has been receiving reports of low attendance rates from professors across all majors. The administration aims to do what it can to encourage attendance while also encouraging students to stay home if they feel ill or think they may have been exposed to the virus. 

“Once students get behind it’s very difficult to catch up… We want to emphasize anything that can be done to increase attendance. Those are positive steps we can take,” said Pogatshnik. 

Many professors have felt the strain of keeping students in class and engaged while making sure to keep themselves and others safe. 

“Students write to me and ask if they should quarantine or if they should come to class and I always tell them do not come if you are ill, I will get you caught up,” said Kevin Rahimzadeh, an associate professor in EKU’s English department. 

Rahimzadeh reports that in some of the classes he teaches attendance is good, but in others attendance levels have taken a big hit.  

“In my mind, the incentive [to come to class] is if you come to class there pretty much is no way you can leave class without an A or a B,” said Rahimzadeh.

While Rahimzadeh prefers to teach courses in person for as long as safely possible, he is primarily concerned with the safety of students coming into his classes. 

“I have had no trouble with students not wearing masks… I think students have handled this with remarkable grace and I think the faculty have as well,” said Rahimzadeh. 

Students have had to make some big adjustments to their lives as well in regard to attending classes, both online and in person. 

“It has been rough. I have a daughter who is a senior in high school this year. Trying to keep her focused on her program and me focused on mine, on top of trying to work has just been a lot to deal with,” said Jane Reeves, a senior business major from Ashland, KY. 

Reeves is a nontraditional student studying at EKU. She has been facing the issue of keeping up with her studies while also raising a family and working. Her obligations outside of her studies have caused issues with her attendance this semester. 

“I have missed a couple of zoom meetings because not only do I have my family, but I work, too. So sometimes they schedule it and I’m at work,” said Reeves. 

Reeves has stayed in touch with her professors. She said that many of her professors are understanding of her situation and allow time to finish assignments. 

Reeves also suffers from COPD, a medical condition that affects her lungs, making her a person of high risk for complications should she catch COVID-19. 

“I’m always worried about [being exposed]. I don’t leave home a lot...because if I end up with COVID it’s not going to be pretty,” Reeves said. 

Reeves has made the decision to attend as many classes as possible online only to mitigate her risk of being exposed to the virus on campus as much as possible. This semester, she attends only one class in person. 

To review the official attendance policy, visit: https://policies.eku.edu/sites/policies.eku.edu/files/policies/4.1.6_student_absence.docx.pdf

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