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Justin Jiang, a CU Boulder bio-chemistry student, sits near the Dalton Trumbo Fountain on Tuesday on the University of Colorado Boulder campus. CU Boulder has announced its plans for the fall semester, which include a return to in-person learning.
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University of Colorado Boulder’s fall semester will be a balancing act of new policies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while still trying to provide students with an on-campus experience, according to new guidelines released Tuesday.

CU Boulder will still have on-campus housing and in-person classes when the fall semester starts on Aug. 24, but with new formats and guidelines to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 — including moving all classes online starting Nov. 30 after Thanksgiving break.

Other new policies include mandatory safety training for everyone on campus, required wearing of face masks and ramped-up coronavirus testing and contact tracing programs.

The plan is expected to cost the university between $10 million and $15 million.

CU Boulder’s fall break for Thanksgiving will mark the end to all in-person learning so that students who travel home for the holiday can stay there for the last two weeks of the semester, reducing the risk of transmitting COVID-19 between communities. The fall semester ends on Dec. 10 and classes resume for the spring semester on Jan. 11. Students who can’t return home will be able to stay on campus, but the students who do return home should not expect to return to campus until the start of the spring semester, officials said.

The university will change its student code of conduct to require students to follow COVID-19 rules and public health orders, though sanctions for violating those rules are still being developed, Provost Russell Moore said.

There are currently a range of sanctions for violating the code of conduct, Moore said, including suspension in the worst-case scenario.

Campus leaders will use education as a first step, Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke said.

“We do want to modify the code of conduct to reflect that people engaging in practices that endanger somebody’s health would be sanctionable,” O’Rourke said. “But much like the police who have had the ability to enforce COVID orders around the state, we want to begin first with education, and by being able to work with our student population and rely on the leadership of our student government, to demonstrate proper behaviors and to do that in a non-coercive manner.”

Cody Harris, a CU senior, runs ...
Cody Harris, a CU Boulder senior, runs through his workout in a near-empty University of Colorado Boulder campus on Tuesday.

Students living off campus, including those living in fraternity and sorority houses, will be expected to follow public health orders, Moore and O’Rourke said.

Students will enroll in a mix of in-person, online and hybrid courses next semester, though it’s too early to say how many classes will fall into each category, spokeswoman Candace Smith said.

Incoming first-year students will be grouped into small cohorts of 20 to 25 students to reduce the number of people students come into contact with overall, Chancellor Phil DiStefano said. That will look a lot like already-existing residential academic programs, which place students in specific residence halls based on their academic interests.

Students will be placed into cohorts based on what classes they enroll in and will still have roommates if they live in rooms or suites that are typically occupied by two or more people, though certain residence halls or sections of residence halls will be reserved to isolate or quarantine infected students.

Incoming first-year students will also be required to take CU 101, which will focus on the epidemiology of COVID-19, mental health awareness and student behavior expectations.

Some classes will be offered in condensed eight-week sessions in an effort to limit the number of classes students take at one time, thereby limiting the number of people students are in contact with. Officials also will expand course scheduling options to allow classes to be scheduled between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. in another effort to lessen student density on campus.

CU Boulder will prioritize offering in-person labs and performance and studio classes because they’re difficult to conduct in an online-only setting, according to the plan announced Tuesday.

In-person courses will have smaller class sizes, physical distancing measures and be offered more frequently to reduce the number of students on campus.

Increasing the number of classes will have an impact on faculty, Moore said, but instructors and professors will use creativity and innovation to offer robust academics while trying to keeping the total number of people on campus low.

“We don’t believe it will be an inordinate increase in workload, but we’ve never done this before, so I think there will be some course preparation that will have to go into this,” Moore said.

Plans for the fall semester may change based on feedback and the evolving nature of the pandemic, according to the guide written by the campus planning team.

“We started this exercise talking about two major principles — the health and safety of our faculty, students and staff and providing a quality education for our students, whether it’s in an in-person classroom setting, a hybrid setting or remote setting,” DiStefano said.  “We’ll start working with our implementation teams this summer to make sure we’re prepared when students come back in August, to be COVID-ready, to have an academic model that ensures student success and to put the resources behind the first two for us to be successful.”

Viva Francisco, a CU graduate, makes ...
Viva Francisco, a CU Boulder graduate, makes a call from the Mary Rippon Theater on Tuesday on the University of Colorado Boulder campus in Boulder.

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