Maine's community colleges, including Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, will reopen for limited hands-on instruction this fall. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

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Maine’s community colleges will reopen campuses for limited hands-on instruction this fall and allow students back into dorms.

The Maine Community College System’s announcement on Thursday follows the release of many other Maine colleges and universities’ plans to resume in-person instruction to a limited degree.

Residence halls on five community college campuses will reopen, but each student will have their own room, and priority will be given to students taking in-person classes.

Approximately 30 percent of instruction will be conducted in person, according to Maine Community College System President David Daigler, who said this number will vary widely based on the academic programs every community college within the seven-campus system offers.

“This is intended to try and ensure that we can complete the instructional sequence and get our students the skills they need so they can get back into the economy,” Daigler said.

The community college system offers a wide range of occupational programs that require an in-person learning component, such as welding or phlebotomy.

The system will offer classes in fields of study such as liberal arts — which do not have a hands-on learning component — entirely online. Many community college system employees will continue remote work, and on-campus athletics will be suspended until next year.

“The incredible effort by our faculty and staff this spring and summer have made the community colleges more nimble and more responsive than ever,” Daigler said. “Given that 70 percent of our students are enrolled in career and occupational programs, this framework provides the greatest likelihood of uninterrupted instruction.”

The colleges are also adopting an app-based screening protocol that will be used across the system to keep students who might be infected with COVID-19 off campus. The community college system is also developing plans for COVID-19 testing, Daigler said, though its testing program will not be as intensive as those of some private colleges, such as Colby and Bates colleges, which will require regular testing for students throughout the semester.

The community colleges will require that all out-of-state students follow Maine’s public health guidelines, which for now require a two-week quarantine upon arrival in Maine from all but five states for those who haven’t tested negative for COVID-19 within three days of arriving in Maine.

The community college campuses themselves will look like most others across the country with smaller class sizes, mandated use of face coverings and required social distancing.