Shifts in mask requirements on campus

Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan is among two-year colleges that this week have made wearing masks on campus optional in most situations. (Photo: GRCC)

As a growing number of states relax their Covid-related mask requirements, more community colleges are also easing their mandates for face coverings.

With significant decreases in reported positive Covid cases and fewer related hospitalizations across the country, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and an increasing number of state and local health agencies have updated their Covid guidance, which is prompting higher education institutions — including community colleges — to scale back some mandatory precautions, especially in requirements to wear masks. But the colleges are noting that many of their other Covid policies and procedures remain in place, and that spikes in local infection rates could bring back mask requirements.

A steady number of community colleges across the country have announced that they this week have dropped mandatory masks on campuses, including Delaware Technical Community College, Alamance Community College in North Carolina, Ohio’s Lorain County Community College, St. Charles Community College in Missouri, and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, to name a new.

In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul ended the state mask requirement in K-12 schools starting on March 2. As a result, several community colleges have announced plans to do the same, including Suffolk County Community College (SCCC), Jamestown Community College and Niagara County Community College.

SCCC President Edward Bonahue said in a message to the college community that although mask-wearing is now optional, certain Covid-related policies and procedures remain in effect. For example, in alignment with the State University of New York’s student vaccine policy, all students coming to campus for classes, activities or services must be vaccinated for Covid. Also, all college employees and on-campus students are required to participate in surveillance testing twice per month, regardless of vaccination status. In addition, students attending clinical or internship sites with more stringent masking rules will have to comply with the site’s policies.

SCCC will continue to provide masks, hand sanitizer and the same level of cleaning services, according to the college.

A cautious approach

In Michigan, Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) is dropping its mask requirement for students, employees and community members on campus in a move to align with other employers and educators in the region.

“We are not declaring victory over Covid — not yet,” GRCC President Bill Pink said in a release. “But we are in a better place, and we are entering a different phase and adapting, as we have done since March 2020. We will continue to work with the authorities and monitor the data and conditions.”

GRCC will continue to follow other policies and procedures related to Covid, such as distancing, increased air filtration and plastic glass panels at some workstations. Classrooms will remain at 75% capacity through the end of the semester, and the college will continue to offer courses in a variety of formats. Masks will still be required while riding public transportation, including GRCC’s shuttle bus route. Face covering dispensers will remain stocked and available on campus.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.