School of Mines hopes to stay in-person despite quarantines

Golden engineering college plans to carry on semester in classrooms

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 9/14/20

Colorado School of Mines has already undergone a series of targeted quarantines in the first weeks of the fall semester, but school officials say they remain committed to on-campus learning as long …

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School of Mines hopes to stay in-person despite quarantines

Golden engineering college plans to carry on semester in classrooms

Posted

Colorado School of Mines has already undergone a series of targeted quarantines in the first weeks of the fall semester, but school officials say they remain committed to on-campus learning as long as possible.

The Golden college had 54 students in quarantine in residence halls as of Sept. 11, said school spokesperson Emilie Rusch. Since the beginning of the fall semester on Aug. 24, the school has implemented targeted quarantines for a fraternity house, a sorority house, two residence hall floors and a residence hall suite.

Still, school officials remain optimistic.

“We're facing the same challenges as all colleges right now, but our size is to our benefit,” Rusch said.

The school partnered with COVID Check Colorado to provide testing for all students every two weeks, with optional testing for faculty and staff.

As of Sept. 11, the school had identified 34 positive cases of the novel coronavirus since March, according to the school's website, including 28 students, two faculty and four staff members. The school has roughly 6,500 students.

More than half of the school's classes, 54%, are being held in-person on a normal schedule, Rusch said. Another 26% are being held online, and 20% are hybrid, meaning partly in person and partly online.

Students are allowed to choose an all-online curriculum, Rusch said, though some labs must be held in-person. The school stands ready if outbreaks or shutdowns force it to go all-online, she said. In the meantime, the school has no plans to alter its academic calendar.

Maintaining social distancing and other health protocols can be difficult in residence halls, but Rusch said students are doing their best. In halls with communal bathrooms, students from different clusters of rooms are assigned particular toilets, showers and sinks.

“We're known for being a community of scientists and engineers, so we're problem solving,” Rusch said.

While some universities have seen enrollment drop precipitously during the pandemic, Mines has seen a small drop — though exactly how much hasn't yet been tallied.

“Like nearly every other institution, we anticipated challenges based on COVID-19 and did see an increase in deferments among first year students,” said associate provost of enrollment management Lori Kester in an email. “While we are still finalizing our fall numbers, enrollment of first year and returning students is strong and about where we expected it to be—a bit down over last year's very large incoming class but not dramatically different.”

Meanwhile, the school is trying to find ways to maintain traditions in the age of COVID.

The annual “M Climb,” when freshman climb nearby Mt. Zion to replenish the whitewashed rocks that make up a large letter M on the hillside, has been suspended this year. In place of the climb, students were invited to lay out a large letter M in rocks on the school's intramural fields. The rocks will be moved up onto the mountain at an as-yet undecided date, Rusch said.

Other school achievements have gone ahead as planned, including opening two new residence halls and a new classroom building.

For now, Rusch said hopes are high the school year can continue as planned.

“We don't have a crystal ball,” Rusch said, “But we're optimistic.”

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