Students are returning to Central Wyoming College campuses this fall, though life on campus will be altered.
The Riverton community college, which has an offshoot campus in Jackson, has released its reopening plan, which will allow students to transition from distance education back into school buildings.
The plan includes a bevy of changes like new screening requirements and high-traffic area cleaning.
“We are working hard to ensure that people are safe,” said Susan Durfee, who is director of the Jackson campus.
Every day when students arrive on campus they will have their temperature checked and complete a questionnaire to determine if they have symptoms. If they show any signs of COVID-19, administrators will ask them to go home.
Students and faculty are to wear masks if they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from each other.
Gatherings and classes will be limited to 50 people, something that won’t affect Jackson classes much, since class sizes are often in the single digits already.
Any student or teacher who tests positive will be asked to quarantine, and the Teton County Health Department will conduct contact tracing.
Faculty have been saddled with extra work this summer, as the plan calls for them to be prepared to offer instruction both in person and online. Classes will start in person, but should something trigger a closure, teachers must be able to pick things up online.
Many Jackson professors are adjuncts who work with full-time professors, so they will receive some help.
“It will be the responsibility of professors that are paid full time to be agile in being able to teach both approaches,” Durfee said.
No matter how classes are taught, Durfee and her staff want to ensure they can still support students. Those who attend community college often work full time or have families, so it can be harder for them to adjust to distance education.
Faculty advisors have reached out to CWC-Jackson students to assess their technological needs, Durfee said, but some have been “difficult to reach” because they may not live in town or may have spotty internet access.
Some teachers were lenient with their classroom requirements because of distance education, for instance, giving extra time for students to complete assignments.
It’s hard to say how long those accommodations might remain in place, but Durfee is confident her faculty will continue adapting to the times. That includes how the college approaches its community partnerships.
Like many community colleges, CWC-Jackson works with organizations to provide internships and other opportunities. St. John’s Health is intertwined with the medical program, and Jackson Hole High School houses the culinary program and provides its students with dual enrollment classes.
Given the worry over viral spread, faculty have worked with those partners to develop plans that fit within new protocol.
If full shutdowns are required at the high school or hospital that could get in the way of how those partnerships work.
However, Durfee sees opportunity in the pandemic.
“I hope it makes our partnerships stronger, or keeps them strong, because we respect what they require and what their needs are,” she said.
Even with an extensive plan, local conditions could necessitate the closure of one of the campuses. In Jackson, Durfee will work with the Health Department to determine the best course of action.
A single case on campus wouldn’t necessarily trigger a closure, but an outbreak in Jackson could. She and her staff are learning as they go and encouraging people who have been thinking about taking classes to sign up, because the potential for distance education presents a challenge but also an opportunity for folks who perhaps don’t have time for in-person classes.
Whatever happens, at some point they’ll find the “new normal.”
“I don’t know what that’s going to be,” Durfee said, “but it’s not going to be what it was a year ago.”