COLUMBIA, S.C. — Businesses in Columbia have a better idea of when they can expect a bump from students and faculty thanks to an update from the University of South Carolina president.
This weekend, President Bob Caslen announced the University’s classes would resume on August 20th with an ‘accelerated’ semester.
Since Spring Break, classrooms have been empty, stadiums closed, and dorm rooms largely vacant as students were told not to return due to coronavirus.
President Caslen said the plan is to resume in-person instruction in the fall. However, some classes will be switched to virtual instruction and everyone will return to virtual learning before the semester ends.
David Erbacher with the Hyatt Place in downtown Columbia called it welcome news.
“I mean there's lecturers come in, there's student visits, there's orientations, we're not having this year, there's so many avenues the University touches that contributes to our downtown market. It's great to see them coming back,” Erbacher said about the University’s impact.
He added it doesn't take much for the University to generate economic revenue for other businesses. City hotels saw a bump when USC let students reserve time to move out of dorm rooms.
“We did, everyone in downtown, hotels across the board, saw an uptick in occupancy from it. It was a very nice contribution for how it's been,” Erbacher said.
Erbacher continued, saying he’s been working the front desk and has listened to guests lament their cities at home were not reopening as quickly as Columbia, families visiting on unofficial strolls of the campus, and parents returning to help students move out.
It's why he's hopeful a return to campus is beneficial for all businesses, not just hotels.
In the update from President Caslen, USC classes will begin August 20 and continue until Thanksgiving week.
There will be no Fall Break and then after Thanksgiving, classes will continue online to avoid a potential second wave of COVID-19 during flu season.
Students will take finals remotely the week of December 7th through 14th.
No official word on Southeastern Conference football has been announced.
Five Points Association President and Saluda's Owner Steven Cook says it's enough to get started.
“Everybody is willing to take what they can get as far as-- Look, we don't need to get back to 100 percent right now, to have the students there the same calendar they were last year. Let's just grab as big of a piece of that as we can and certainly leaving at Thanksgiving, it's not like that is some kind of deal breaker or big problem for us,” Cook said.
Cook added it’s hard to know what the specific impact of USC’s closed campus spring was on Five Points since the entire state was on home or work orders for weeks, and many customers were limiting time outside.
The University’s wider ecosystem of support staff, faculty, visiting speakers, families, and guests will present Five Points, and the surrounding areas, with a somewhat normal return to the busy season, according to Cook.
President Caslen said further guidance, including a decision on December commencement, will come at a later time.