The Maine Community College System unveiled a fall reopening plan on Thursday that will be a blend of online and in-person learning.

Classes will be online, except for those where “hands-on instruction and assessment is essential to developing the skills required,” the system said in a news release. Students and staff at all seven of the community colleges will be required to wear masks while on campus.

The entrance to the Southern Maine Community College campus in South Portland. Press Herald file photo/John Ewing

“These measures allow us the most effective path for delivering and completing education and training our students desperately need in this economy, while upholding our commitment to protecting the health and safety of our students, employees, and the broader community,” said David Daigler, the system’s president.

All of the colleges will have their own reopening plan, but there is some uniformity, according to the system’s news release.

At Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, the hybrid approach means that automotive technology, culinary arts, emergency medical services, HVAC/plumbing, nursing, precision machining, radiography, biological sciences and other select trade and health science programs will be taught in person, but all other classes will be conducted online.

“We are pleased to be offering a full schedule of classes to students this fall,” said Joe Cassidy, SMCC’s president. “This approach prioritizes our commitment to the health and safety of our employees and students and our further commitment to delivering top-rate educational experiences for our students.”

Also at all of the community colleges, residence halls will be limited to one person, one room, and only be available for students who are taking in-person classes and the homeless.

In addition, all fall and winter sports will be delayed until at least January. It is uncertain whether fall sports will carry over to 2021, but athletics officials are working on plans.

In addition to the South Portland campus, the system includes York County Community College in Wells, Central Maine Community College in Auburn, Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield/Hinckley, Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle, and Washington County Community College in Calais.

The community college announcement comes on the heels of other reopening plans that have been released in recent weeks, such as the University of Maine System, Colby College and Bowdoin College.

Schools – from colleges to K-12 – have spent months planning for reopening, while the COVID-19 pandemic constantly shifts. Trends in Maine have been positive recently, but school officials must prepare for a resurgence and try to prevent schools from being potential hot spots for a spike in cases.

“Our plans need to account for the fact that roughly 95 percent of our students commute between campus and their communities, many with jobs and families. We have taken prudent steps to minimize the threat of transmission of this highly communicable virus,” Daigler said.

At other colleges and universities a variety of plans have unfolded. In the University of Maine System, officials released a plan for in-person learning that includes testing of students and staff for COVID-19, smaller classes with more physical distancing measures in place, and in-person classes wrapping up by Thanksgiving with remote learning the last two weeks of the semester.

Colby College in Waterville is reopening with a massive and frequent testing program, while Bowdoin College opted for online-only learning this fall.

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