Students, faculty and staff at Arapahoe Community College will have to show proof of vaccination or begin to undergo weekly testing for COVID-19 by Jan. 3 in order to remain on the college's campuses in Littleton, Castle Rock and Parker.
The decision came amid a surge in COVID cases throughout the state. Colorado Community College System Chancellor Joe Garcia issued a letter to college leaders on Oct. 7 instructing they take further steps to ensure their schools' populations are protected against the virus.
“Employees and students who work on campus, attend in-person classes, access support services, or participate in other activities at our colleges or system office will have the choice to provide results from regular COVID-19 testing or, alternatively, provide evidence that they are fully vaccinated,” Garcia wrote in his letter.
Arapahoe Community College, with campuses in Littleton, Parker and Castle Rock, is anticpating around 5,000 students to be on campus for in-person classes come January.
Stephanie Fujii, ACC's president, said the vaccination-or-testing protocol is necessary to avoid an outbreak, which could force the college's campus to shut down.
“I'm hoping that scenario doesn't happen,” she said, adding that she is confident that her community will follow the new testing rules.
As of mid-November, 68% of students and 88% of faculty and staff have shown proof of full vaccination, according to Fujii.
“My hope is that more will go ahead,” she said. “I don't want people to get sick.”
For students who attend classes fully online, they will not have to participate in COVID testing or show that they have been fully vaccinated. However, if they intend to come to one of ACC's campuses, they will need to show proof of a negative test three days before arriving.
The testing protocol also has no effect on ACC's mask-wearing mandate, with students, faculty and staff required to wear masks when on campus regardless of vaccination status or testing, though students and employees can request an exemption from mask wearing for medical reasons.
The college will still offer virtual classes and other academic services for those who do not want to undergo testing or vaccination.
The new guidelines have led to some grumbling among students, faculty and staff, said Lisa Matye Edwards, vice president for student affairs, with some students even threatening to drop their classes in protest of the new protocol.
“We recognize that there's a variety of reasons that people may not choose to be vaccinated or cannot be vaccinated,” Matye Edwards said, adding that the testing option was given to avoid a vaccine mandate.
Matye Edwards said that for those who violate the protocal by showing up on campus either unvaccinated or without proof of testing, they may face consequences ranging from a warning to suspension.
But with the vast majority of the community fully vaccinated and already following mask requirements, college leaders believe the new guidelines will see a mostly smooth rollout.
“ACC is a college that cares,” Fujii said. “I'm very confident that while folks may not like it they will be willing to comply because they care more about the community.”
Students can go to tinyurl.com/studentvaccineform to upload their vaccination record. Faculty and staff can go to tinyurl.com/employeevaccinerecord to upload their vaccine record.
Anyone who does not upload a vaccine record by Jan. 3 will have to test when the semester starts on Jan. 18.
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