Published: July 30, 2020

CU Boulder leaders briefed city council members and officials during a virtual meeting about the campus’s preparations for the return of students, faculty and staff in mid-August. 

“We believe the process we have in place will help us mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Provost Russell Moore. “Our students live, study, and work in the community, and the community benefits greatly from their presence. We hope you will welcome back our students, faculty and staff.”

University officials highlighted the progress since their last council update in mid-July:  

  • Fast-tracking of campus-created saliva-based COVID-19 testing.
  • Surveillance testing strategies in place, such as regular pooled testing of campus communities with increased risks (e.g., Athletics, music, Greek life), and daily wastewater testing at 20 locations on campus, providing early detection.
  • Public health awareness and accountability campaign launched.
  • Required safety trainings launched for all students, faculty and staff to complete before arriving on campus.
  • Student and community ambassador program expansion.
  • Collaboration with Downtown Boulder, Boulder Convention & Visitors Bureau, Boulder Chamber and the city on an awareness campaign.
  • For residence hall students living on campus, proof of negative test or on-campus testing prior to move-in.
  • Contact tracing conducted by students, faculty and staff and in collaboration with Boulder County Public Health. 
  • Campus isolation capacity established on campus to support the needs of infected on-campus students.

Interim Chief Operating Officer Pat O'Rourke noted the focus is on the university's testing strategy and anticipated positive cases as part of the fall return to campus.

“We know this won’t be perfect, but we have worked hard to get to the point of keeping our students safe and healthy, which will help us keep the broader community safe,” said O'Rourke. 

O'Rourke also noted the university will be monitoring several factors to determine if operations would need to move to remote, including government orders, increase in cases, operations of local schools and other colleges, availability of personal protective equipment, on campus outbreaks and compliance. 

“Our health and safety measures are varied and will provide a sound strategy to return,” O'Rourke said.  “We are attempting to limit the number of infectious contacts; teaching in places we never thought we’d be teaching in; extending hours of instruction to keep density down, enhancing air filtration in buildings and requiring face coverings.” 

Moore also addressed why the university has decided not to completely move to remote learning.  

“There are many reasons why we haven’t moved to fully remote instruction. Some of our students cannot adequately advance towards their degrees in a fully remote environment. Other students don’t have access to technology in their home communities. The students who are most disadvantaged by a remote environment are our diverse and lower income students. Our mission is to serve them,” Moore said.

University officials answered questions about the daily web-based health questionnaire, which is expected to be replaced by a phone app that will also provide reminders; PPE supplies and concerns about student behavior.  

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Akirah Bradley and newly appointed Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students JB Banks noted 23,000 students have taken the required online COVID-19 campus ready course so far, and the division has a proven track record of direct outreach to students and landlords in neighborhoods if the university receives complaints. 

The council also received an update about the planned CU Conference Center, which is tentatively expected to break ground on construction next summer with a scheduled opening in 2023.  

As the briefing wrapped up, Chancellor Philip DiStefano congratulated city manager Jane S. Brautigam on her retirement and thanked her for 12 years of service and partnership.

“The city of Boulder and the University of Colorado Boulder have among the best working relationships in a town gown way in the nation,” Brautigam agreed. 

City of Boulder | University of Colorado Boulder meeting