Columbia prepares for students returning from winter break

Sunday, January 15, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:34 p.m. CST, Sunday, January 15, 2012
An MU student leaves the MU bookstore on Saturday. Many students returned Saturday to start the new semester on Tuesday when classes resume.

COLUMBIA — Outside the Defoe-Graham residence hall at MU on Saturday morning, there were five cars carrying students and their furniture back to school.

Bobbie Bennett, a freshman studying business, was carrying his flat screen TV from his car to a trolley. He came back from St. Louis for MU's spring semester, which starts Tuesday.

Mark Twain Residence Hall Rennovations

Mark Twain Residence Hall closed in December for renovations and the students in Mark Twain were relocated to other MU residential housing.

The renovations are scheduled to begin in February. When it is completed, Mark Twain will house 372 residents, 23 fewer than it did previously, according to the Residential Life website.

The residence hall is scheduled to reopen for the fall 2013 semester.

Mark Twain Market, the dining hall connected to the residence hall, will remain open for the spring semester, but hours will be reduced, according to the website for Campus Dining Services.

  • Monday through Thursday, the hours will be 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. for dinner.
  • Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch only.

The dining hall will close in May and reopen with the residence hall in August 2013.

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"It feels good to be back, better than the first time," Bennett said. "I was thrown into a whole new world then."

All around town, businesses are preparing and stocking up for the influx of more than 30,000 students who are returning to MU over the holiday weekend for the spring semester. Columbia College and Stephens College began classes on Jan. 9.

Although MU usually sees fewer students in the spring semester than in the fall due to graduating students in December, the returning rate of students for spring 2011 was up from the 2010 spring semester.

"We are expecting a fairly full campus for the spring semester," Christian Basi, associate director of MU News Bureau said. "We are really excited to have students back on campus."

With university students back in town, many businesses around Columbia are expecting to see an increase of customers. Brad Neely, perishables manager at the Rock Bridge HyVee, expects many students will come back this weekend.

The store, at 405 E. Nifong Blvd., will keep the store stocked and make sure people are able to get in and out quickly, he said.  

Neely said he is aware that some products run out quickly when students are back on campus, such as frozen pizza.

Bars gearing back up

Bars in downtown Columbia are restocking liquor and beer and getting back up to usual staffing levels.  At many bars, the staff is smaller over winter break as student employees go home.

Bengal’s Bar & Grill closed from Dec. 18 through Jan. 11. Jay Rader, general manager, said the staff is coming back to work and inventory is being restored.

"We're getting ready to roll again," Rader said.

Rader estimated that 90 percent of Bengal’s employees are MU students. During the break, Rader said the staff spends a lot of time cleaning the bar.

Doug Stockton, general manager at Quinton’s Bar & Deli, said the bar's inventory is stocked to meet the demand and needs of people in town. Quinton's is staffed for anticipated business.  

The liquor closet at Campus Bar & Grill was being filled Friday, and clear bottles of vodka were taken from boxes stacked on the floor and placed on a shelf.

Campus Bar & Grill general manager Matt Hudson said the bar is getting back to ordering normal amounts of liquor and beer. The staff comes back a few days early to prepare for the first weekend before school. That is when things really start to pick up, Hudson said.

"Saturday, Sunday and Monday are crazy," Hudson said.

Shuttles to Columbia

Companies that transport people to and from Columbia are seeing an increase in business as well. The MO-X airport shuttle service is busy anytime MU classes resume or end, said Norm Ruebling, president and owner.

During the busy periods, MO-X passengers include students, sometimes their parents and people who work at MU, Ruebling said. MO-X has about 30 percent more passengers at the beginning and end of each semester and during spring and Thanksgiving breaks.

MO-X driver Sherman Booker said Missouri weather is the most frequent topic of his conversations with international students coming to school in Columbia. Some are unfamiliar with the weather here, so they bring a lot of clothes.

Booker also picks up in-state students from Kansas City and St. Louis. International students tend to come to campus early, while in-state students don't come until a day or two before classes begin, he said.

The number of trips to St. Louis and Kansas City that Mo-X operates remains the same throughout the year, but it uses different vehicles during busy times. Booker said it probably would use coach buses, which carry 52 to 60 passengers, this Sunday and Monday. It normally uses minibuses or vans, which carry 33 or 14 people, respectively.

MO-X makes 12 trips to St. Louis and five trips to Kansas City every day, Booker said.

University Bookstore

The University Bookstore is prepared for the mass of students flocking back to school after the winter break with extra workers and cashiers.

On Friday, the basement of the bookstore was a labyrinth of book-crammed shelves and palettes of books stacked four feet tall. An army of greeters and cashiers greeted customers on the first level. Meanwhile, the Student Center basement acted as an overflow stock room, with boxes of books piled all over the lounge.

MU Bookstore spokeswoman Michelle Froese said the bookstore prepares for back-to-school time by hiring about 100 temporary workers to serve as cashiers and greeters and to work in the distribution center. They also operate an additional 20 cash registers to handle the high volume of business.

Froese said the store staff makes sure to stock up on any miscellaneous items that professors require for classes, such as lab goggles or art and architecture supplies. Other popular items include binders and notebooks, highlighters, packages of pens and flash drives.

"We've moved some of the general supply items downstairs closer to the books and electronics so it's more convenient for students to get it all at once," Froese said.

In addition to stocking up and staffing more, the bookstore also extends its hours this time of year.

"We open earlier and stay later. But during the peak hours of 10 to 2, we get really busy," Froese said. She advised shoppers to avoid peak hours and instead shop early in the day or later in the evening.

The bookstore will be open on Monday, even though it's Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"We want to support the university in observing the holiday, but with 30,000 students returning and classes starting the next day, they allowed us to stay open," Froese said.

The bookstore will be open from from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday.

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