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University of Colorado Boulder students may be learning in unconventional environments next year — like the recreation center or in tents outdoors — as campus leaders try to plan classes around social distancing and coronavirus safety measures.

CU Boulder’s plan to bring students and faculty back to campus for the fall semester, which starts Aug. 24, involves reimagining many parts of the university experience.

Campus leaders previously announced guidelines that classes will be smaller to accommodate social distancing requirements, and new guidance released this week expands on those measures.

A campus task force is looking at different spaces where classes can be held, including classrooms, conference rooms, the recreation center and the University Memorial Center, according to guidelines announced this week.

“Social distancing will significantly reduce capacities in our traditional classrooms and learning labs,” spokesman Josh Lindenstein said in an email. “To help offset this, the campus is exploring nontraditional academic spaces … as potential sites that could accommodate social distancing for some larger in-person groups.”

Students could also spend time outside in open-air and climate-controlled tents designed for classrooms, dining, studying and other spaces. Decisions are still being made on what that will look like, Lindenstein said.

Campus groups are also designing and installing plexiglass barriers at “transactional service counters,” with front desks and dining halls getting first priority, Lindenstein said. The first of those are being installed in the Center for Academic Success & Engagement building.

There are also designated groups for updating campus cleaning protocols and developing social distancing guidelines for events, including how to handle elevators, restrooms and mask-wearing.

A bus transit group is looking at bus route options and how to queue students at stops. Another group is looking at when to allow access to buildings.

CU Boulder is also instituting a new kind of first-year experience in which students will be put into residence hall cohorts based on what classes they’re taking as part of an effort to reduce person-to-person contact on campus. Room assignments for 4,500 students were sent out June 19, and students will move in at prearranged times Aug. 17 through 21.

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