FVCC Announces Early Start, End of Fall Semester

Community college joins UM and MSU in adjusting schedule to reduce risk of COVID-19 outbreaks related to holiday travel

By Myers Reece
Flathead Valley Community College. Beacon file photo

Flathead Valley Community College has announced an early start and conclusion to its fall semester, joining Montana University System campuses in ending the semester before Thanksgiving to reduce the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks related to holiday travel.

FVCC’s adjusted fall semester schedule will begin Aug. 24 and end Nov. 25, the college said in a May 29 press release. Courses that require “offsite clinical experience and/or cannot be compressed into a shorter time period” will begin on the same date but conclude in December when all course requirements are completed.

Students at the community college will have the option of taking in-person, online and hybrid courses with “stringent social-distancing and sanitation protocols in effect across campus.” To allow for adequate physical spacing between students, FVCC will reduce the number of seats available for its in-person courses. Additional course sections will be added to the fall schedule to meet demand.

“We are committed to keeping our campus community safe,” FVCC President Jane Karas said in a statement. “While students will notice some changes this fall, they will continue to experience the same high level of instruction and services that FVCC is known for throughout the state.”

Montana State University announced on May 15 an adjusted fall semester beginning Aug. 17 and ending Nov. 25. University of Montana then followed suit on May 21, announcing that its fall semester would begin Aug. 19 and conclude by Nov. 25.

Those announcements were in accordance with guidance from Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian, outlined in a May 14 memo, encouraging campuses to “design a fall academic calendar that allows for the completion of the fall term, including any required on-campus final exams.”

“While (our office) is not mandating any specific schedule, we do expect campus leadership to work through appropriate shared governance channels to establish adjustments and strategies that best match campus needs,” Christian wrote to higher education officials and Gov. Steve Bullock.

Christian’s memo came on the heels of the Montana University System (MUS) announcing its intention in late April to welcome students back to campuses for in-person instruction this fall. To guide the process of reopening campuses, MUS formed the Healthy Fall 2020 Task Force consisting of 12 members representing higher education institutions across the state.

Christian, noting that operations at colleges and universities are a “complex ecosystem,” said the task force would “combine established public health protocols and knowledge of our unique campuses to develop strategies across our operational areas, from student housing to athletics and everything in between.”

“Because of our efforts as a university system coupled with the diligence of citizens across our state, we are in a position to work with health experts to start considering how we can safely and enthusiastically welcome students back to our campuses for a healthy fall semester,” Christian said on April 21.

FVCC, which held a May 15 virtual graduation ceremony for 339 degree earners, started the first session of its summer courses on May 26. In the press release announcing its adjusted fall schedule, Karas, the college’s president, highlighted FVCC’s student-focused approach as an asset during the upheaval of 2020.

“In this time of uncertainty, our student-centeredness is a huge asset to students and families,” Karas said. “We look forward to welcoming all students, including those who have just graduated from high school and those who may have had some life changes recently but want to attain the skills and knowledge necessary for new careers.”

Registration for fall semester is now open. To get started on the free application process, contact the FVCC Admissions Office at (406) 756-3847 or [email protected].

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