As Wyoming’s institutions of higher education prepare plans to reopen this fall, Casper College has the shortest and least-detailed blueprint of the seven community colleges and the University of Wyoming.
All of the community colleges and UW closed to in-person learning in late March, along with K-12 schools, restaurants, gyms and most other public-facing businesses and organizations. At that time, the coronavirus had just begun to establish its presence in Wyoming, and state health officials were firing off health orders to stem the tide. While cases subsided in May, and those orders were loosened, the coronavirus has spiked again in Wyoming; over the past month, Gov. Mark Gordon said Wednesday, 700 cases were identified, about 44 percent of the total number of cases found in the four months since the first patient was identified in Wyoming.
Other than Casper, the other six community colleges have reopening plans between 14 and 46 pages long, all of which are posted to the Wyoming Community College Commission’s website. No such plan is available for Casper College; the school’s reopening plan appears to have been condensed into a 19-bullet point email sent by college president Darren Divine late last month.
The other six schools will require masks when social distancing isn’t possible and will largely require students and staff self-screen — filling out questionnaires and getting their temperatures checked — before entering school buildings. Casper College “likely will require” face coverings in classrooms but will make a final decision later. Screenings are encouraged but won’t be required.
All six other schools will largely limit dorm occupancy to one student per room, with extra rooms left open should students need to quarantine or isolate. At Casper College, dorm occupancy will be kept as normal. The fall calendar in Casper will remain the same, with students coming back after Thanksgiving break. All other schools besides Northwest College will not have students return after the November holiday. Like the University of Wyoming, which will require masks and screenings, they will complete the fall semester online.
The other schools have, to varying degrees, detailed plans for dining halls, when staff and students get sick, contract tracing, plans for recovered students and staff returning to classrooms, travel, fitness centers and most other areas of campus life.
Divine’s email largely avoids touching on these issues. The Casper College plan devotes bullet points to what happens if a teacher gets sick (contingency plans should be prepared by individual instructors); social distancing (classrooms reconfigured, signage posted and markers to keep distancing in some areas where lines are common); hand sanitizer availability; cafeteria service (which will be unchanged, unlike other schools); student athletes (no self-imposed changes); and what students and staff to do if they’re symptomatic (stay home).
Casper College spokesman Chris Lorenzen said last week that the school drafted its plan with “a broad campus group of people working and highlighting where they needed to focus their energy.” As far as the mask orders and business-as-usual residence halls, Lorenzen said the school’s plans were “felt to be in line with the current public health orders and environment in our community.”
There’s nothing about testing in the college’s plan. Not all plans require students be tested before coming to campus. The university has that requirement, and officials there have discussed having other rounds of testing throughout the year. Laramie County Community College will require testing “in certain LCCC population,” such as “students in the residence halls.”
But all of the plans discuss the processes for students and staff returning to campus after testing positive.
As of Sunday, there have been 1,728 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, plus 398 probable cases and 24 deaths. Natrona County has had 150 confirmed and 25 probable patients.
Lorenzen said he didn’t know if anyone tied to the Casper College community had tested positive for the virus. Beyond instructing teachers to have contingency plans and urging students and staff to stay home if they’re sick, the plan does not detail the processes for what happens if a student or staff member gets sick or needs to quarantine on campus.
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