CMC plans to welcome back students in the fall with flexible options
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Colorado Mountain College has released a “2020 Trail Map” as it prepares for the fall semester.
The plan has built-in flexibility in the event things change due to the status of COVID-19, and it’s dependent on what students choose to do, according to Kathy Kiser-Miller, CMC vice president and dean of the Steamboat Springs campus.
And, as has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic, unknowns remain in “a landscape that shifts all the time,” she said.
Starting in the fall, there will be three types of classes offered.
Flex classes will provide a virtual setting in which students interact with faculty and other students on the Brady Bunch-like computer screen format at designated class times. That will be supplemented with online content and presentations.
Those classes also may have an in-person element, with students meeting in small groups for discussions or projects.
There will be a few in-person classes offered, which require hands-on training, like nursing and EMT.
In terms of the wilderness training-type classes, Kiser-Miller said the plan is to continue those in-person, as long as they are able to meet current safety requirements. Those also will likely have some online components, but physical presence would be required to some extent, while adhering to all social distancing and safety guidelines.
The third option will be online anytime classes, and students will not have any in-person class time, nor will they be required to participate at a designated time for a virtual class. Coursework would be completed in a timeframe as designated by the class’s syllabus.
Kiser-Miller said she and CMC President and CEO Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser have been in countless meetings in recent weeks to create this initial “Trail Map.”
“Our president, in particular, has been very involved and in tuned with what other colleges and institutions are planning — particularly those in the state,” Kiser-Miller said.
Hauser also has been in numerous meetings with people nationally who hold college and university leadership positions, Kiser-Miller said.
“It’s totally a mixed bag,” she added. “There’s no one way to go.”
In California, for example, Kiser-Miller said the decision was made early on that students would not be returning to campuses in the fall. And now that California is seeing a spike in cases, that decision looks different than when it was made, she noted.
Even among CMC’s campuses, each county’s disease prevalence and guidelines and restrictions vary so much each location has to do a lot of individual analysis, she noted.
“Maintaining the health and safety of our students, employees and local communities is central to our planning for this fall semester,” Hauser said in a June 15 news release. “Our flexible plan also permits us to continue complying with evolving state and local public health orders. Our goal is to provide a blended and high-quality set of options that leverage CMC’s long-standing signature and experiential programs, small class sizes, innovative approaches and personalized learning, along with its nearly two decades of expertise in distance education.”
In terms of residence halls, Kiser-Miller said a final decision will be made July 15. Until then, the plan is to open the residences but at a reduced capacity.
CMC is also planning to open residence halls on their Leadville and Spring Valley campuses. In Breckenridge, CMC’s college-owned apartments will continue to operate as self-contained units.
Following what other colleges are doing, as well as guidelines from the state, most available rooms will be singles.
The campus can house about 250 students, Kiser-Miller said, but last year, prior to the pandemic, had just under 200 residents. Now, they will be able to offer housing to about 140 students, and they already have about 150 on a waiting list.
Priority will be given to those enrolled in programs like nursing that do require in-person learning, Kiser-Miller said.
For the remainder of the spring semester, she said about 20 students remained on campus as they had nowhere else to go, including international exchange students who could not fly home.
And the college has been in contact with Routt County health officials to test all incoming students to establish a baseline,” she said.
Kiser-Miller said there hasn’t been a drop in enrollment at this point, but there is still some uncertainty around what students will choose to do.
With free tuition, summer attendance, which was completely online, was “fantastic,” she said.
For now, the campus will remain closed to the public, and additional safety measures — temperature checks, grab-and-go food, sanitizing and installing plexiglass barriers — will be instituted.
“If conditions change locally or at the state level, we will be ready to act,” Hauser said in the release. “We believe this format for offering classes, as well as our reduced population in the residence halls, will allow us to adapt quickly as needed.”
The majority of faculty continues to work from home, Kiser-Miller said.
As a former teacher, Kiser-Miller noted it isn’t easy to translate a face-to-face class online and create community, but so far, the faculty has done a really good job. She also said the feedback from students across the CMC system has been positive.
In terms of financial impact, Kiser-Miller noted the college has saved money in some areas but aren’t bringing in the same amount of revenue.
“We are OK financially at this point,” she said.
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