In-person learning, with enrollment projected to be flat or down slightly, is slated to return to Fort Lewis College on Feb. 1, a few days after the spring semester begins on Jan. 28.
All students, faculty and staff members returning for spring will be required to be tested for COVID-19, a change from fall, the first semester on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic, when required testing was limited to students living on campus.
FLC President Tom Stritikus said: “We are completely committed to in-person instruction. We know our campus is able to operate safely, as we really showed in the fall. Our faculty and staff have been hard at work to make any minor adjustments that we need to make to bring back our students to campus because it’s where we know they learn best.”
FLC went without an active case of COVID-19 from the end of August through Oct. 7. It was able to continue with in-person learning until Nov. 8, a week before a second spike in transmissions in La Plata County triggered greater public health restrictions and a move to Level Red, the second most restrictive Dial Level status used by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“In-person learning is ideal. We were able to do it for a very, very long time in the fall, and we were able to do it safely,” Stritikus said. “We put a lot of resources into testing, contact tracing, mitigating the burden of disease. So I feel confident that the campus is ready.”
He added that FLC saw no evidence of transmission of the novel coronavirus in the classroom, and the majority of transmissions largely occurred off campus.
“Our experience points to the fact that mitigation, when done correctly, can have a huge impact,” he said.
A health screening app is strongly recommended for use by students and staff members at FLC to aid in contact tracing and can be downloaded from the college’s website.
To accommodate COVID-19 social distancing, the campus will again reserve multiple days, Jan. 24 to 27, for students to move into dormitories.
Free testing for students and staff members is scheduled for Jan. 20 to 26 in the parking lot of Roy Dennison Memorial Field, the football stadium.
As of Thursday, FLC reported the campus has seen 185 total positive cases, with 13 active cases and 9,693 COVID-19 tests conducted.
Tents that went up on campus to provide outdoor learning space have proved so popular the college will examine ways to fully integrate more outdoor learning spaces as a permanent feature.
As for enrollment numbers, Stritikus said he expects the total number of students on campus for spring to be flat or down slightly, but it’s too early to get a count on student numbers.
A census of students will be conducted Feb. 12.
After a strong marketing and recruitment effort to stem several years of falling enrollment, fall 2020 enrollment came in at 3,443 students compared with 3,308 for fall 2019, a 4% increase.
The start of the spring semester was delayed by a couple of weeks to better contain the spread of the virus, a decision that has helped, given the second wave of the novel coronavirus, Stritikus said.
Stritikus said he believes a number of students across the country are taking a semester off to allow the COVID-19 pandemic to play out a little more.
A high probability exists that students who do not enroll for spring will be returning to campus for classes in the fall 2021 semester, he said.