Montana and Wyoming. Those are the only two states in the country where you might find students meandering around on school campuses.
While decisions about how to continue with the end of the spring semester and beyond lie with the individual school districts in the Treasure State, summer classes began without a hitch on Monday at Great Falls College MSU.
GFC MSU Dean Dr. Susan Wolff said that there weren’t really that many differences between this year’s summer semester and last year’s. 40 of the school’s summer classes were already slated to take place online, but there are still a handful of in-person classes that will be taking place on campus over the next couple months.
One of the few differences was the quick turnaround time. Spring semester for the college ended on May 13, just five days before the start of the summer term. According to Wolff, faculty, staff and students usually have closer to 10 days off between the end of spring classes and the start of summer, but, like many things, the Coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in that timeline.
Not new since the end of spring semester, but certainly vastly different from last summer are the extensive steps the school is taking to make sure that everyone who does come back on campus this summer is protected from spreading or receiving germs or illnesses.
“We’re asking people to wear masks when they are out in the common areas,” said Wolff. “We actually brought some spring students back to finish some of their clinicals out in the welding shop, and they’ve done deep cleaning. We also rearranged some of the furniture in the common areas so students don’t have the capability of gathering in large numbers. And then a lot of the hand sanitizers in different locations, we have sneeze guards at some of our desk locations and every night the custodians go through and do a sanitizing.”
Great Falls College was happy to open up and see students coming back to campus again for the summer, but that hasn’t affected the status of fall semester just yet. Montana University System schools like Montana State University, University of Montana and Montana Tech are working together with GFC MSU and the other MUS schools to determine what classes will look like come Fall.
“We’re still working on that,” explained Wolff. “We have a task force, they just worked really hard to get us ready for summer semester, and now we’re working on that for fall. We had a Version One of a plan, and we’re still working on that, so we’re not able to release that information yet.”
How summer classes go for GFC MSU could have a significant impact on when the decision on fall classes is made in Montana, and exactly what that decision turns out to be. A smaller school than UM or MSU, Great Falls College appears to have a little more flexibility than its cousins to the South and West, although officials at GFC MSU told MTN that they expect a decision from the Montana University System to have an effect on all the schools in the system, regardless of size or setup.
Either way, as long as things continue to go smoothly for Great Falls College over the summer months, it’s likely that other schools around Montana could use their (hopeful) success as a stepping stone to welcoming students back to campus in the Fall.