Idaho colleges and universities preparing for a safe return

Posted at 9:49 AM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-24 11:49:01-04

BOISE, Idaho — Many of Idaho's colleges and university students are preparing to start classes, either virtually or in-person, Monday. School presidents presented reopening plans to the State Board of Education last week. All institutions are requiring face coverings, social distancing and increased cleaning protocols.

The most notable changes come from the University of Idaho, as it will require everyone to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus. U of I is also installing thermal imaging scanners in common areas to detect students and staff with fevers.

Boise State University says its course delivery is dependent on the feedback received from students as they will take park in hybrid classes, with half online and half in-person. Some classrooms are being reconfigured to accommodate the changes.

“We’ve spent over 1.9 million dollars on new technology to make our classrooms more flexible," said Dr. Marlene Tromp, BSU president. "Our aim is to be as responsive as possible to student needs."

Dr. Tromp says flexibility is the theme of this school year, as they may need to change plans at any time. BSU has installed over 1,000 plexiglass shields and reconfigured classrooms to accommodate students. 2,800 returning students and incoming freshmen moved into their dorms last week, 115 beds across the residence system are being saved for students who may contract COVID-19 and need to self-isolate.

Boise State also hired additional health staff, including a public health expert, to help monitor occupancy. BSU will not require students to get tested before returning, but it has increased testing capabilities available to students.

“We didn’t want to put any strict guidelines, we wanted to be responsive," said Dr. Tromp. "We have a public health group our reintegration committee that meets regularly, often on a daily basis to really analyze the data as it’s coming in and we’ve developed a very robust communications strategy. Our reintegration plan has been recognized nationally recognized as a very robust reintegration plan.”

The State Board of Education will hold another special meeting Monday to hear updates on the development of the Idaho Online Digital Campus for Higher Education as well as reopening plans for the public education system and public charter schools. The meeting starts at 3 p.m. and you can stream it live on the State Board's Facebook page or call 877-820-7829 code 8461895 to listen in.