Maine community colleges are planning for expanded in-person learning this fall and a return to campus life that is “as close to normal as possible.”

While fall plans are still evolving, the Maine Community College System intends to offer a more traditional student experience with expanded in-person classes, residence hall capacity, food service and other on-campus activities while continuing to adhere to COVID-19 safety measures, the system said in a news release Friday.

Over the last year only about 30 percent of classes were offered in-person, residence halls at five campuses were limited to one person per bedroom and campus facilities were mostly closed. The announcement comes about a week after the University of Maine System also announced it intends to increase in-person learning and activities at its campuses.

“We are eager for the students, faculty and staff to return to our colleges as much as possible,” said Maine Community College System President David Daigler in the release. “Hopeful signs such as Maine’s clear vaccination rollout plan gives us confidence in planning expanded in-person instruction.”

Presidents of each community college are expected to release campus-specific information about fall plans. Each of the seven colleges will continue to use daily COVID-19 screening apps to monitor the on-campus population and enforce health protocols.

At Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, safety rules will remain in place for the fall, including the requirement that visitors to campus wear masks, both indoors and outdoors, while maintaining physical distance. The college is planning for expanded on-campus offerings and will continue to offer numerous classes online for students who prefer the flexibility and convenience of remote learning.

“We expect our college to be busier this fall than it has been at any time during the past year,” said SMCC President Joe Cassidy. “We are pleased to offer more courses on campus, with safety protocols still in place. The past year has been challenging for students and faculty alike, and we are excited that we are moving forward toward being able to offer a more traditional college experience for students this fall.”

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