After an uncertain summer for Bacone College students, move-in day finally arrived on August 12 in Muskogee.
Students say they're cautiously optimistic about the upcoming school year - unsure of whether the school will remain open for the spring, but happy to be back on the same campus they left last spring.
But only half of the students that left campus last semester are moving back in. Administrators say enrollment last year was around 700; enrollment for the upcoming semester is hovering at 300. They added, however, they hope to add another 100 in the first two weeks of school.
Of those 100 potentially-returning students are a handful of athletes, including scholarship athletes, who left after being unsure of where they would be playing in the fall. Administrators say many athletes have expressed interest in returning, on the condition that the school officially reopen and classes begin on schedule.
"Once we got released they didn't know if Bacone was going to be open again," sophomore soccer player Brianna Battiest said about 12 of her teammates who elected to leave this summer. "So they took their chance to go ahead and go somewhere else. Only, like, five of us are coming back."
Returning students say the campus feels "empty", noting many of their friends from past years jumped ship amidst the uncertainty.
"There are more people that have left than I know," senior Lola Johnson said. "I came here not knowing more than five people who are coming back."
Administrators say getting the word out about the school re-opening is step one; after that, bringing in more money from donors for maintenance inside buildings is next on the agenda.