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CU Boulder outlines hybrid learning plan for fall

The University of Colorado wants to bring students back to campus for a hybrid model of in-person mixed with remote learning.

BOULDER, Colo. — University of Colorado Boulder (CU) administrators updated Boulder city leaders on their plans for having students on campus this fall in a virtual meeting Thursday afternoon.

"Even if we were to go fully remote, we know that because of May housing contracts, et cetera, that many students will end up showing up in Boulder anyway," said Russell Moore, CU's provost.

Interim Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer Patrick O'Rourke outlined the university's plans, which include testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, a public awareness campaign and safety training for students, faculty and staff. 

"Testing is important. It's going to allow us to be able to respond," O'Rourke said. "Our primary goal is still going to prevent infection."

Even wastewater will be tested for the coronavirus, O'Rourke said.

"COVID will show up in wastewater often times before it would show up anywhere else," O'Rourke said. "That would give us a good first early indicator."  

Moore addressed the question of why the university will not be going to a fully remote system. 

Moore said the university's testing strategy and capacity and its ability to do contact tracing allows it to have a robust ability to execute its prevention methodology, as well as to detect and isolate infections when they occur on campus and in the community.

In addition, Moore said remote learning would put under-served populations (low-income students, students of color, etc.) at a disadvantage. 

He also argued that part of the university's mission is to engage its students.

O'Rourke said large lectures are gone, about 30% of classes will be offered remotely, events will be limited and less faculty and staff will be on campus. 

The university may even have to pause in-person instruction or go back to fully remote learning if conditions warrant it.    

During Thursday's meeting Boulder City Council Member Junie Joseph asked if the school can control issues off-campus.

"What will we be doing to monitor the parties that are taking place on The Hill and what does that look like?" Joseph said.

The Hill is home to thousands of students and often the scene of large parties of unmasked crowds which contributed to a spike in COVID cases in Boulder in June. 

The university will now contact landlords when parties are busted for violating public health orders, according to Jeff Morris whose in charge of off-campus housing and neighborhood relations at CU.

"When we are contacting landlords, what we're finding is that the students are, let's say, fearing the landlords more than they are CU when it comes to getting in trouble," Morris said.

Repeated violations could lead to school suspension, but Morris said first, they'll try education through a system of block captains across The Hill.

"What we've seen in the past few weeks cause this is a fairly new process for us that this is starting to work," Morris said. "We're starting to see houses that normally receive complaints not receive complaints after follow-ups with neighbors."

Boulder Police promised more officers to patrol and the areas in and around The Hill. If a student has COVID-19, CU has an isolation plan.

You can watch the full meeting here:

Previously, CU Boulder said students moving into residence halls would be required to complete a COVID-19 test within five days of moving in. CU Boulder’s website said the university will have on-campus testing for students, faculty and staff with symptoms and a goal of maximizing capacity to have a robust testing program.

RELATED: Some of the changes coming to college campuses this fall

CU Boulder also said on-campus housing density will be reduced and students will be housed based on their academic college.

“This will allow students to live and take classes with the same small group,” explained a university spokeswoman in an email. “Our new cohorts will support student interaction, connection and safety due to their intentional 'community within a community' design.”

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