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Uncertainty looms as Arizona colleges prepare for fall semester

Arizona universities are preparing for a semester unlike any before, and some plans could still change.

TEMPE, Ariz. — College students are moving in for a freshman year like no other.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, masks and a possibility that these dorm rooms may become classrooms is the norm across Arizona colleges.

"I think we've been pretty good, everybody's been keeping their masks on and keeping a good distance," one student said.

Classes at Arizona State University haven't started yet, but some other universities have already opened – and closed again.

"What just happened at UNC yesterday, obviously that's a worry, but ASU has done a pretty good job of trying to keep us separate."

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled in-person classes after just one week. Notre Dame made it only eight days before closing the campus. At Colorado College, 150 students are in quarantine.

Students at ASU are hoping that doesn't happen to them.

"I'm really hoping but honestly, yeah, I have no idea,” one student said. “I'm just really playing by ear."

"It's always a risk, but we're taking the proper precautions and we're being safe so i feel safe on campus."

Cassandra Aska, the university’s dean of students, says masks are required on campus. If a student doesn't want to wear one, they can go to class online.

And if they refuse both, they basically go to the principal's office.

"If it's something where a student does not want to wear their face covering, they will be referred to my office, the dean of students office," Aska said.

And if students do test positive for the coronavirus, ASU says it has quarantine space.

"We do have locations where students will be able to quarantine and if they do test positive, at that point those individuals will work closely with our health services to make informed decisions moving forward from there," she said.

But Aska says there's no set number of cases that would cancel in-person classes. She says they'll take it day by day.

Most freshmen are on their own for the first time, and their parents told them to stay safe.

"Before I came out, they told me hand sanitizer all the time, wash your hands, wear your mask all the time,” one student said. “But they make sure I'm being safe, and I make sure for myself also."

"She just would rather have me go out and have a chance because we've been sitting around for five months."

UArizona is also requiring masks and offering free testing for students. NAU is requiring testing for anyone who lives on campus.

NAU and ASU are also requiring all students to do a daily health check.