GREAT FALLS — As Great Falls College-MSU and the University of Providence slowly begin to fill with the hustle and bustle of the upcoming school year, just like the previous school year COVID is on everyone's mind. The academic year starts August 23 for Great Falls College and August 30 for the University of Providence.
At the University of Providence, masks and vaccines will not be required but will be encouraged.
UP Registrar Brittany Budeski said, "I think we've had really good conversations. We've tried to set the tone or the conversation of personal responsibility. First things first, we're all in this together."
Budeski said the decision about vaccines was based on voluntary responses to a survey about vaccination status: "Total respondents that are campus-based, we have 333. In that total respondents category, we've got an 82 percent vaccination or previous infection, therefore having antibodies. So we feel pretty darn positive about where we're at.”
Great Falls College Dean Stephanie Erdmann said, "I think we have been cautiously optimistic about handling COVID and as we move into the school year we are still remaining cautiously optimistic."
Erdmann said masks and vaccines will be requested but not required: "At Great Falls College, we will closely monitor the progression of COVID cases in Cascade County to ensure our face covering and other safety guidelines reflect the conditions."
The college is also taking steps like using black lights to check to make sure keyboards in the testing center have been thoroughly cleaned after they’re used.
At UP, on-site contact tracing will be available just like it was for the spring semester.
Budeski said during the spring semester quarantining and isolating when necessary was able to happen the same day as contact tracing.
“If there is a positive case, it does not necessarily mean that the entire facility needs to shut down, the entire residence hall,” said Budeski. "We have a whole process for sanitizing and disinfecting areas where positive cases might have resided."
Like Great Falls College, the university will work closely with the health department throughout the semester to monitor and address COVID.