Colorado Mountain College plans to implement an across-the-board mask mandate for the first several weeks of school but will only require COVID-19 vaccines for athletes, students who live in residence halls and those who are enrolled in health care, public safety and first responder programs, the institution announced Aug. 18.
The mask mandate will apply in all buildings across all 11 of the college’s campuses, including five in located in and near the Roaring Fork Valley (Aspen, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs and Rifle) and six others throughout the state (Breckenridge, Dillon, Leadville, Salida, Steamboat Springs and Vail Valley at Edwards).
It will also apply to the college’s administrative offices in downtown Glenwood Springs. The announcement came days before the fall semester kicks off with in-person classes on Aug. 23.
“While this decision comes less than a week before classes begin, it was not made hastily,” the college’s Chief Operating Officer Dr. Matt Gianneschi said in a news release. “The decision-making process has been lengthy, inclusive and deliberative. In fact, we have been planning for the start of the fall term for months.”
Officials will reevaluate the mask requirement “on or about Labor Day” with on public health data and vaccination rates in mind, according to the news release.
An Aug. 16 survey indicated that 89% of faculty and staff who responded to the survey have already voluntarily received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; 85% of those respondents are already fully vaccinated, public information manager Phil Dunn confirmed Aug. 18.
“If vaccination rates continue to increase and transmission rates improve, we expect to conform our procedures to county-level public health guidelines,” Gianneschi said. “In the meantime, and while the summer tourism season is still in full-swing, we will ask students and staff to wear face coverings while we monitor local public health data in order to consider adjustments to our procedures.”
Though student-athletes, residents in on-campus housing and students enrolled in health care, public safety and first responder programs must be vaccinated, the same requirement does not currently apply to faculty and staff who work in those departments (like coaches, residence hall staff or instructors in those specified programs), Dunn said in a phone call.
That said, the data from the vaccination survey suggest that it’s likely those faculty and staff are already vaccinated anyway, according to Dunn.
The college will offer free vaccination clinics at most campuses and will also cover the cost of offsite testing for faculty, staff and students who need a COVID-19 test.
The college will offer courses in four formats this fall: in-person learning, live-stream courses offered virtually in real time, hybrid courses that combine in-person and online instruction and “online anytime” classes that are pre-recorded and can be viewed any time.
Online classes begin one week after in-person classes and registration is still open for all formats.