The University of Colorado Boulder will reopen campus for some in-person classes and on-campus housing in February, officials announced Wednesday.
Last month, CU officials said the new semester, which begins Thursday, would be completely remote for at least the first month, due to a high local coronavirus infection rate.
At a press conference Wednesday, CU interim executive vice chancellor Patrick O’Rourke said the state’s decision to allow counties to ease coronavirus restrictions gave them the opportunity to reopen campus.
“When things were in Level Red, it did not offer us the best opportunity to be able to return students to campus and to the residence halls,” he said. “But the current designation of level orange will allow us to bring people back, to be able to resume instruction, and to be able to have small personal gatherings.”
This is a double-edged sword. Should Boulder County go back into Level Red, O’Rourke said they would abide by local health guidelines, which would likely impact in-person classes.
Students who live in on-campus residence halls will also be allowed to return to campus a week before in-person and hybrid classes resume. Residents are required to schedule an on-site appointment and complete a rapid result saliva monitoring test. CU is also encouraging students to get tested within five days of their move-in date.
Until campus reopens fully next month, classes are being held completely online.
“Beginning the semester remotely gives us the best opportunity to prepare for a positive in-person experience and avoid back and forth shifts that created uncertainty in the fall,” CU Provost Russell Moore said.
CU isn’t the only university announcing returns to in-person learning. In Greeley, University of Northern Colorado announced it plans to offer a full catalog of in-person classes in the fall in light of the approval of several COVID-19 vaccines.
The presence of a working vaccine brings Moore hope, but he is hesitant to commit to a concrete fall schedule due to the slow pace of vaccinations in the country.
“We have a limited number of vaccines available to us now,” Moore said. “I hope we'll have an unlimited amount of vaccines available to us, but that remains to be seen. Until we can really nail those down, I think it's a bit premature to declare definitively what our fall semester will look like.”
This will be CU’s third semester during the coronavirus pandemic. Last fall, students and faculty experienced several pandemic setbacks, including outbreaks, a mid-semester shift to remote learning, and a county-issued ban on gatherings between college-aged people.