Colleges and universities hope to bring students back in the fall

Thousands of Idaho’s college students might not return to their campuses this fall.

The state’s two- and four-year institutions are prepping to resume in-person classes after summer break, but the coronavirus could stand in their way.

“The uncertainty of the coming months…require faculty and staff to be prepared for the possibility of disruption to the fall semester,” Boise State University spokesman Greg Hahn told Idaho Education News Wednesday.

Idaho’s higher education leaders aren’t alone in their cautious approach. Nearly 800,000 California students won’t likely return to campuses this fall.

With Idaho’s institutions relying on remote learning through the summer, some are more resolute than others in bringing students back this fall. Earlier this month, the College of Idaho announced plans to reopen its campus at the start of the new school year. Others aren’t as sure.

Here’s a statewide look:

Boise State University. “The university’s goal is to resume as many face-to-face courses this fall as we are able to with appropriate social distancing and enhanced cleaning protocols,” Hahn said.

Still, Boise State is making additional investments in “faculty development and infrastructure improvements” to enhance remote delivery of courses.

Hahn said a university committee will provide more information on May 25, including plans for opening “lower-density, face-to-face classes” and reopening student housing.

Idaho State University. Spokesman Stuart Summers said ISU is focused on being fully operational this fall.

Four committees are developing recommendations and guidelines for how that will happen by August.

ISU President Kevin Satterlee will release a video to the university’s YouTube page around 2 p.m. Thursday to address more about the path forward, Summers said.

Click here for the university’s current rebound plan, which reflects Gov. Brad Little’s staged reopening of Idaho.

University of Idaho. The Moscow-based university says it intends to be fully in-person in the fall, but officials “continue to work with Public Health as we assess the situation,” spokesman Jodi Walker told EdNews.

“Since we know that can change quickly, we are also working on contingency plans, including going back to remote deliver and delivering hybrid courses,” Walker said.

Lewis-Clark State College. The college is planning for face-to-face delivery in the fall, said spokesman Logan Fowler, but because the situation is fluid, it will be ready to deliver coursework in-person, remotely or through a combination of the two.

“We’re preparing for all scenarios and following the lead of Idaho’s stages (for reopening) and how they progress, if they do as planned,” Fowler added.

Northwest Nazarene University. Plans are still being developed, but the Nampa-based private Christian university hopes to return to campus for the fall semester, President Joel Pearsall told faculty and staff on May 1.

Pearsall said residence halls and other spaces will be thoroughly cleaned and ready for occupancy but that “some things will be different.”

A COVID-19 task force has developed a plan for employees to return to work in four stages informed by Gov. Little’s four stage plan for Idaho.

The university posts updates here.

Brigham Young University-Idaho. Spokesman Brett Crandall did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday about the university’s fall plans.

The Rexburg-based private university has posted some details to a webpage devoted to information during emergencies.

“The university continues to actively plan for Fall 2020 Semester,” a May 4 posting to the page reads. “As conditions associated with COVID-19 are fluid, a return to campus is subject to official governmental and public health guidance.”

College of Western Idaho. This Nampa-based two-year college has not made a final determination on what to do for fall.

“I believe like most, we are hopeful that students will have all the available learning options open to them (in-person, hybrid or fully online) but as of today, we have not locked it down,” spokesman Mark Browning told EdNews Wednesday.

Browning expects the continual “shifting of conditions” to drive the college’s timeline.

College of Southern Idaho. Students here can expect face-to-face classes “with social distancing protocols in place,” spokeswoman Kimberlee LaPray said.

Still, LaPray stressed that plan is fluid and may change if Gov. Little or other health officials recommend against it.

College of Eastern Idaho. The college is planning a regular, face-to-face fall semester, also with some social distancing measures, spokesman Todd Wightman said. Students hesitant to return to campus can also expect an increase of online learning options.

North Idaho College. This two-year college is “intent on having on-the-ground classes open and fully operational in the fall,” spokeswoman Laura Rumpler told EdNews.

Leaders are also preparing to move courses back online “without disruption,” if warranted, Rumpler said, adding that the forced integration of online learning this spring helped the school grow more capable of delivering remote instruction.

“We had to adapt quickly this spring,” Rumpler said.

Some programs, including career-technical education and health professions, are allowing some students to return to classrooms Monday to finish spring semester work.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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