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Education, health precautions on equal footing at College of the Siskiyous this fall

Mike Meyer

Students returning to the College of the Siskiyous in Weed for the fall semester on Monday, Aug. 24, will be given a color-coded wrist band to wear when they arrive. The bands, which are a different color each day of the week, ensure that every person on the campus has had their temperature taken, does not have COVID-19 symptoms and has not been in contact with someone who does have symptoms.

College of the Siskiyous Superintendent and President Dr. Stephen Schoonmaker

College president and superintendent Dr. Stephen Schoonmaker said everyone will be tested when they arrive. Temperature and the questions about symptoms will be handled either at a drive-by kiosk in the parking lot off College Drive or in person at the TRIO Center.

“We’ll have an app up and running soon that will also allow people to answer the questions before they arrive,” Schoonmaker said.

Funds are limited this year especially, so the kiosk and TRIO Center will be manned by Schoonmaker and other college administrators and employees who have an hour now and then to volunteer.

Face to face instruction is expected to resume for about half of COS class offerings this semester. 

"We've been trying to think of everything we could to address the students', the faculty's and everyone's health and safety," said Dawnie Slabaugh,  the college’s director of public relations.

Because of the pandemic, enrollment is down this semester to around 600, compared to 800-900 for most semesters.

With fewer people in campus classrooms on any given day, each course’s student group will be divided in two, with half in one room and the other half in another room, Schoonmaker explained.

“The instructor will teach face to face in a classroom in front of one of the groups, and the session will be ZOOMed simultaneously to the group in the second classroom,” he said, adding that the instructors will alternate between the groups.

Students will see and experience many other changes around the COS campus when they return. Those changes are the result of the college staff having worked since March to ensure a safe environment for the re-opening, according to Schoonmaker. 

The campus was closed in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

One change will be the conversion of the tennis courts into physical conditioning and fitness spaces.

Volunteers work to repurpose the unused tennis courts at College of the Siskiyous into a place suitable for sports teams to use during the COVID-19 pandemic. The next step is to have the area covered so it can be used in inclement weather.

“Because we have so many activities in the gym, we knew that we had to get people farther apart somehow. So we decided to bring the conditioning equipment out to the tennis courts," Schoonmaker said.

Small trees had taken over, growing up through the surface over the past few years when it sat unused. A private donor paid for material to fill in the fissures. 

“Now, we're looking into the possibility of putting a cover over the courts," said Schoonmaker, so they can be used in inclement weather.

Work on the courts was completed by the coaching staff and athletic director Charlie Roche.

Another change for students who live on campus is that they no longer will have a roommate. 

“We have 72 rooms and we'll have 72 live-in students," Schoonmaker said. "In the past we've had two students per room. Now it's all singles, and we have a waiting list."

Also, the live-in students will only be allowed to move in during a specific block of time assigned to them, Slabaugh said. "This keeps the flow of people in the halls to a minimum.”