Colorado Department of Higher Ed issues guidance for colleges planning to have students return to campus

DENVER (KDVR) — The Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) released new guidance on Tuesday for colleges planning to have students return to campus in the fall.

The guidance, which is 25 pages long, offers recommendations to colleges and universities on how to have students return to an in-person learning environment in the safest way possible amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The report establishes that it is unknown what will change regarding the virus between now and when classes resume in August and September. However, it states that measures such as mask-wearing, symptom screening and social distancing will still be in place.

The CDHE said activities should resume in phases and face-to-face interactions should be reduced by 65% compared to pre-coronavirus levels.

Under the state’s current safer-at-home orders, most classrooms are capped at 50% capacity, with a maximum of 50 people.

The agency encouraged institutions to gather feedback from staff and students about their thoughts on returning to campus.

“Allow those who can work/learn effectively from home to be the last to return and/or delay their return to the campus,” the CDHE advised.

It also said staff who are high risk or over the age of 65 should be allowed to continue working remotely.

Additionally, the state said student workspaces should be spaced out with at least 6 feet between each station. It also said there should be designated entries and exits to buildings.

Moreover, the CDHE instructed colleges and universities to work with local health agencies to ensure they have a protocol in place in case there are confirmed COVID-19 cases on campus.

You can read the entire CDHE report on the department’s website.

“I think a lot of students are trying to figure out what to do,” said Dr. Lisa Mayte Edwards, vice president of student affairs at Arapahoe Community College.

Edwards says while their enrollment numbers may be down compared to this time last year, she expects enrollment to be up once classes begin.

She hopes new guidelines will instill more confidence in committing to higher education this fall, as more people are asking about their community college programs.

“We also have a lot of people who’ve become unemployed and are looking at, ‘I don’t want to go through this recession thing again, I want to skill up,’” Edwards said. “I think just overall we’re seeing the community college stigma being dashed.”

“How I see going to college, I want to be on campus, I want to have that whole experience,” said Priscilla Broomandi. She just graduated from Denver’s North High School this year, and was planning to take the fall semester off until the pandemic hit.

Then she heard about Community College of Denver offering free tuition for a semester to any 2020 graduate of Denver Public Schools.

“You know, just kind of makes sense, since I have the credits and I get the feel of it already,” Broomandi said. “I think with community colleges opening up so many opportunities, I think a lot of people in my class are going to be like, you know, ‘This is going to be my chance.’”