Classes for the fall semester at the University of Montana are scheduled to start on Wednesday, August 19, and school officials have been hard at work preparing for an unprecedented fall semester, due to COVID 19 complications.

UM Spokesperson Paula Short said no aspect of student life has been neglected in preparing for a safe return to classes.

“We’ve done work across 11 planning areas,” said Short. “Those include auxiliary functions such as UM dining and housing. There’s also information from transportation, security and of course, the biggest area of focus is how to deliver quality instruction.”

Short said the planning groups have been very hard at work.

“We have been working through our planning and everything from classroom management and configuration and our classroom capacities have been adjusted to accommodate physical distancing as recommended by the city county health department,” she said. “We do have a mask requirement, as well. We’re working through traffic flow. For example, classrooms will have two doors, one for ingress and another for egress.”

One of the topics that have been affecting universities all over the country as the fall semester approaches is the possible drop in enrollment that the COVID pandemic might bring.

“For many families, I think it’s going to come right down to a decision that will come very close to the start of classes,” she said. “People here in Montana and beyond are certainly watching how COVID 19 is moving through the country with new cases and infection rates and some of those decisions about attending the university are being delayed. I can tell you that we are looking at that data every day and we are preparing for the semester whatever our enrollment might be.”

There was a policy put forward by government officials that would have sent international students home if the campus went exclusively to distance learning, however, Short said that policy has been done away with.

“My understanding is that policy has been reversed,” she said. “I know that our international studies experts are working with our students to let them know, but the latest on that decision is that a move to online instruction because of coronavirus would not automatically prompt our international students to immediately leave the country.”

UM President Seth Bodnar said the plan will be adjusted as new information becomes available and requirements are implemented and updated.