With so much uncertainty surrounding concerns about COVID-19, Gillette College decided to move its start date up a week to Aug. 24, in order to end the semester by the Thanksgiving break.
This change is just one of several the college has adopted this fall in the wake of the coronavirus, according to Gillette College Vice President Janell Oberlander, and Governor Gordon’s announcement Wednesday that existing public health orders will remain in place through August, if not longer.
In keeping with current restrictions, the college has increased its cleaning and sanitizing protocol with sanitizing stations in every classroom, where students will be socially distanced 6-feet apart. Both teachers and students will also be encouraged to wear masks if they feel it necessary.
“What’s most important is the health of our students, faculty and staff,” Oberlander said in an interview Wednesday.
Along with in-person instruction, the college is also converting a few of its classrooms into ZOOM classrooms, so students can still receive the lecture portions of that particular class.
The goal, Oberlander said, is to fully accommodate student learning.
Gillette College, just like other higher education institutions across the country and state, is seeing a decrease in enrollment this fall of about 20%, Oberlander noted. Due to the lower enrollment of students this term as well as public health restrictions, they have temporarily closed Inspiration Hall and the High Plains Grill. Instead, students living on campus will be housed on campus in the Tanner Village apartments, instead of dorms, due to social distance guidelines. With no on-campus meal plans available this term, students living in Tanner Village will have access to kitchens.
The college will maintain a healthy combination of students taking online classes and those attending in person, Oberlander noted, and faculty will maintain office hours to provide one-on-one instruction if needed. Oberlander also said there was virtually no change in tuition costs; however, she said, counselors and enrollment staff have made a more direct effort to advertise available scholarship opportunities.
“There are many scholarships that go unawarded every year,” she said, noting that students are being encouraged to submit applications to help with some tuition costs through federal funding.
Tutoring services as well as the library and book store will also remain open this fall.
While enrollment is down slightly this fall, Gillette College is also seeing a significant number of students opting to stay in Gillette and take classes locally, Oberlander said, instead of moving to Laramie and attending the University of Wyoming, where changes are still in the works.
One student, Jacob Ladd, was on campus Thursday afternoon for the Last Call for Fall enrollment event. He plans to attend Gillette College this fall, where he intends to do his first two years of general studies, before moving to Laramie to pursue a law degree.
He has no COVID-19 worries, he said, but instead was excited for the semester to begin.