Socially distant bus rides and plenty of hand sanitizer: Priddy trips will balance tradition with new safety guidelines

Plus, after announcements of an in-person fall, some college administrators across the country have changed their minds

Good morning, and happy Thursday. On this pre-pandemic date last year, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center was prepping for the opening night of “Disaster!” (A different kind of disaster than what we’re currently facing, but we couldn’t help but grimace at the irony.)

Today, we talk to Colorado College Outdoor Education Director Ryan Hammes about the changes for Priddy trips and programming during the school year. We also look at announcements from schools that invited students back to campus but are now planning for an online fall semester. 

📬In your inbox: Acting co-presidents Mike Edmonds and Robert Moore informed the CC community yesterday that the college is delaying all early arrivals to campus until Aug. 9. The Bridge Scholars Program begins Aug. 3 and will run remotely with synchronous and asynchronous components. 

➡️ICYMI: Yesterday, we spoke with CC Director of Academic Programs Aaron Stoller about the new First Year Program, and we explained some of the ways higher-ed institutions are responding to requests for refunds from the spring and for lower tuition this fall.  

Skip the Tents: Priddy trips will stay close to campus and embrace virtual programming next month

One of the videos included in Colorado College’s Plan for Fall 2020 featured Outdoor Education Director Ryan Hammes describing changes to New Student Orientation and the Priddy Experience, but we still had some questions for him. On Tuesday, The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project connected with Hammes over Zoom to discuss what trips will look like during NSO, some new safety protocols, and what the academic year will bring for Outdoor Education.

🥾What participants can expect during their Priddy trips

Priddy trips will look different this year, but the goal is the same: “to help orient students to the CC culture, as well as to the place they’re going to call home,” Hammes says.

The trips will be day trips to local areas, instead of the multi-day overnight camping trips that some older students experienced. The day trips will focus on three themes: “sense of place,” adventure, and community service with local partners. 

Group sizes will stay about the same as past years, but this year, a 55-passenger bus may only transport one group so they can ensure proper social distancing measures.

“We’ll probably have like six to eight buses at a time, shuttling people around,” Hammes says. “We should be able to get about 200 students off campus each morning and each afternoon.”

The evenings are usually reserved for “fireside chats,” where participants can ask questions about life on campus and leaders will talk through topics such as how the points system for classes works or what to do if you have an issue with a roommate. 

Without a campfire, the NSO interns are getting creative in coming up with replacements like a “Nalgene bottle fireplace.” (We’ll let you imagine how that might look). Some groups may still be able to gather in a circle for these conversations, but it would have to be a large, socially distant circle outside. 

They are also working on making virtual options for as many parts of the orientation experience as possible — both for students who won’t be returning to campus right away, and also in case a student were to show COVID-19 symptoms and needed to isolate.

“This is uncharted waters, of course,” he says. “We don’t know how that’s going to go over, but we’re going to try our best to create community, even through Zoom and other platforms.”

🩹How Outdoor Education is implementing new safety protocols  

Before they come to campus for NSO, each trip leader will complete an online module and quiz with information about risk mitigation. Once they arrive on campus, they’ll go over the information again before the first-year students arrive. 

“We take a pretty conservative approach with all of our risk mitigation,” Hammes says. 

During Outdoor Education programming, everyone should wear a mask whenever they’re within 10 to 12 feet of another person. Hammes has the most reservations about enforcing mask-wearing, and students who don’t abide by the policies will no longer be on the trips.  

Most first-aid protocols aren’t changing, but this year, Outdoor Education is moving toward compression-only CPR because of the risk of aerosol transmission. 

Hammes placed an order with the college for personal protective equipment and said they were surprised by how many materials he requested. They started doing the math — each pump of hand sanitizer is roughly .15 ounces, and with 10 people in a group doing that 10 to 12 times per day, multiplied for 70 groups — it adds up quickly. 

🧗‍♀️What activities with Outdoor Education may look like this fall 

Because the college is not using the 12-passenger vans, Hammes says transportation is the largest roadblock to trips this fall. He ordered 10 e-bikes, which he expects to arrive during Block 2. The bikes have a roughly 45-mile battery and can go farther than the Pike Ride bikes currently available on campus. Instead of driving a van, students could bike to a local trailhead, Hammes says. 

Outdoor Education is planning more local trips this fall, and they have already reserved campground space at Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Social distancing is nearly impossible in a tent, but Outdoor Education has about 12 individual tent shelters; trip participants would eat pre-packaged or dried food instead of cooking together. 

“The food scene is going to be like individual space food almost,” Hammes says. “Like freeze-dried where you just add hot water and, … boom, there’s your lasagna.” 

On campus, the Outdoor Education staff is planning to offer more skill trainings during the fall, and they also plan to continue virtual programming like the online speaker sessions they hosted during Blocks 7 and 8. Hammes expects to open the climbing gym during Block 2, once student workers return to campus. The space will operate on a reservation system, and climbers will sanitize their hands between each climb. 

Back to Zoom: Some schools reverse course and plan for online fall semester 

Since campuses closed in mid-March, higher-ed administrators began hatching plans to bring students back for in-person instruction this fall. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in some areas of the country, some colleges and universities declared those initial plans no longer safe, and they are now planning moves to remote instruction this fall. (Click here for a comprehensive map of schools that are walking back their initial fall plans).

Here are some of the liberal arts schools that are scrambling their plans:

Dickinson College in Pennsylvania announced a remote fall semester, after initially planning to bring students back to campus. Classes begin Aug. 17, but course offerings could change before then. Administrators had planned for a 3.9% tuition increase, but decided to charge the same rate as last year and waive the fall student activities fee. The college is allowing some students to return to campus this fall, including international students, students with insecure home situations, and essential student workers.

Grinnell College in Iowa will now start the year remotely, but is leaving the possibility of students returning to campus in October. About 200 students are approved to live off-campus this fall, and they are allowed to return to Grinnell to use learning and study spaces. Those students will participate in a “robust testing program,” wrote president Anne Harris. Students with “vulnerable and highly stressed situations” may also return to campus this fall. The college plans to release additional residency updates by July 27. 

Occidental College in California announced about a month ago it was planning to reopen campus in the fall with reduced density, but has since decided the fall 2020 semester will be remote. Every class will offer synchronous instruction, and class sizes will be small. The college might not offer some courses in the fall and will instead move them to a later semester. Only international students and students with “significant housing hardships” may return to campus this fall. Tuition will remain the same as last year. 

Pomona College in California is not bringing students back to campus in the fall. The college is planning to support students through continued distance learning by providing financial aid to students to cover the off-campus cost of attendance, which includes food and housing. The college is also offering loaner laptops and WiFi hotspots to students who need them. Originally, administrators announced a 3.5% increase in tuition for the 2020-21 academic year, but will now charge the same tuition as last year. Two other colleges in the Claremont consortium, Pitzer College and Scripps College are also planning remote instruction for the fall. “This situation is not what we hoped for,” wrote Pomona president G. Gabrielle Starr and Board of Trustees chair Samuel Glick. “The reality is that if we had brought students back for fall, it would be under such restricted conditions that campus life would bear little resemblance to the community we cherish.”

Rhodes College in Tennessee is planning a remote fall semester, after announcing May 27 they intended to bring students back to campus. If conditions in Memphis improve, first-years may come to campus later in the semester, and they would all live in single rooms. The college is reducing tuition by 9%, which is the same rate they charged in fall 2017. Additionally, they are planning to offer competition for fall sports in the spring of 2021. 

Spelman College in Georgia changed its decision in less than three weeks, and will now only offer virtual instruction for the fall semester. Before classes begin, the college plans to hold virtual New Student Orientation programming and send students information about their “student success study group” assignment. Additionally, the college is reducing tuition by 10% and reducing mandatory fees by an average of 40%. 

About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project

The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is a student-faculty collaboration by Colorado College student journalists Miriam Brown and Arielle Gordon, Journalism Institute Director Steven Hayward, Visiting Assistant Professor of Journalism Corey Hutchins, and Assistant Professor of English Najnin Islam. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear from time to time, as will infographics by Colorado College students Rana Abdu, Aleesa Chua, Sara Dixon, Jia Mei, and Lindsey Smith.

The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community. 

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