CMC weathers fall semester well amid pandemic
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Colorado Mountain College is nearing the end of the fall semester, and early estimates put its grade for handling the COVID-19 pandemic in the B+ to A- range.
“The thoughtfulness, the care, the dedication of our faculty, the understanding of our students, all walking together knowing this is not the ideal of situations for anyone, but we are all here to try and create and make this environment the best one we can,” said Kathryn Regjo, vice president of academic affairs for the college, when asked to grade the school.
The college system, which is spread out on 11 different campuses across the state, has made it through the semester largely as it planned, without having any COVID-19 outbreaks leading to major disruptions in instruction. But while some students are adjusting well to alternative teaching formats, others are not and are struggling with the lack of in-person instruction.
Regjo said CMC leaders are in frequent communication with other colleges and universities across the state to share what is working best for each school.
“We’ve all been making it up as we go along, really trying to understand what keeps students safe, what keeps students learning,” Regjo said.
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While each situation is different, all the schools share the same goal of keeping students safe and learning. She said for Colorado Mountain College, continuing to offer the same programs is vital because they are the pipeline for many essential jobs on the Western Slope.
“One of the most detrimental things we could do right now would be to pause our program educating nurses because the entire pipeline of nurses for our mountain communities would stop,” Regjo said.
The college is using what they call their Trail Map program for this year, which has classes that are in-person, all online or a flex-style course. Flex courses have designated virtual class meeting times and may have optional face-to-face components.
All online courses were designed to allow students to complete coursework at their own pace and do not have designated meeting times. About 55% of the courses offered across the system this fall are either an all-online or flex course compared to just about 10% of courses being online this time last year.
Regjo said CMC has learned a lot about how to better utilize online courses and will provide more options for students in the future.
“There are some students who are having the best semester they have ever had,” Regjo said. “And others who really need to get back to that in-person environment, and we can’t wait to see them there.”
The current model will continue for the spring semester, but the college is hoping to have a more normal model next fall.
Because of the nature of programs the school offers, not all courses could be moved online. Hands-on programs in nursing, public safety, fire science and paramedic training were not compatible with an online format.
“We’ve really made a conscious effort to do things as safely as possible for the courses that need to be in person, so that they can be seen all the way through in-person,” Regjo said.
She said class sizes were structured to meet public health guidelines, sometimes spreading out in-person aspects of the classes into smaller groups. The recent spike of COVID cases across the state has not had much impact on how the school has been operating in the past few weeks.
Residence halls were open across the college’s system, including dorms on the Steamboat Springs campus. Capacity in the residence hall was reduced by about 40%, and requirements to live on campus were waived. More of the rooms in the building were switched to single occupancy rooms.
“The semester has gone relatively well in the residence hall, given the circumstances,” said Michelle Cole, director of student life and housing at the CMC Steamboat Springs. “Although we haven’t been able to provide as many events and services, we have still been able to provide a quality living environment to our residents.”
Cole said she is unaware of any cases of COVID-19 within the residence hall, but they have had some students who needed to quarantine because of close contact with a positive case. There are 10 rooms set aside for quarantining if a student is showing symptoms or had close contact with a positive COVID-19 case and has a roommate.
Residence Life staff also created a supplemental housing agreement students had to sign to live in the dorms with specific protocols to follow, such as informing staff of any symptoms or exposure to the virus, wearing masks when outside of their room and not having non-resident guests in the building.
Colorado Mountain College imposed health and safety requirements on all students, faculty and staff on campus. Coming in the form of an addendum to the student conduct code, the college requires students to adhere to all public health orders from government and the school, cooperate with symptom screening and reporting protocols, follow all mask and social distancing guidelines on campus and isolate and notify the college if sick with the virus.
Punishment for persistent violation of the requirements could get a student removed from the school, but Regjo said the college has had good compliance from students.
“We haven’t had any problems that escalated beyond a reminder,” Regjo said. “I think everybody recognizes that yeah, we have to be able to do that, but none of us wants to.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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Routt County’s COVID-19 incidence rate is increasing exponentially and is now among the top three in Colorado behind only Moffat and Kit Carson counties.