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Minnesota community college brings students back as part of phased reopening

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Riverland Community College's Austin campus

AUSTIN, Minn. (KTTC) - Riverland Community College offers courses in an assortment of skills from carpentry and truck driving to nursing and welding.

"Not a lot of those things can be replicated online," said Adenuga Atewologun, Riverland Community College president.

After a spring semester that had to be finished online, students are glad to be back.

"Yes, I am actually happy to be back on campus," said student Johana Gonzalez. "I wasn't really doing much at home. I like being out of my house and back here. I like the environment a lot."

This week, hands-on instruction resumed, but most classes are still offered online.

"We'd like to say it's practice," said Riverland's president. "We've been gone for some time. It's good to bring people back gradually so they can be ready for fall."

The fall semester will offer three options for class: online anytime, online on a schedule or an in-person hybrid.

"We might have two sections of the same class so we can practice social distancing." said Atewologun.

Riverland is encouraging masks but will not require them until it has enough for everyone.

However, every lab and classroom is sanitized after use.

"I think it's safe to come back," Gonzalez said. "We have face shields, masks and plenty of other safety measures that have been taken."

In the fall, safety measures will be taken when it comes to the cafeteria, gym and workout rooms.

With all the changes, most colleges are seeing a decrease in enrollment. Thanks to the Hormel Foundation's Austin Assurance Scholarship helping more high school students afford a degree, Riverland is not seeing a huge impact.

"We have seen an increase in the number of graduates from Austin schools that are coming to Riverland," Atewologun said. "We've seen about a 30 percent increase."

No matter your area of study or type of course, the president has this promise.

"Every enrolled student will receive the best opportunity to achieve their career and educational goals," said Atewologun.

Riverland's president says the school is prepared to return to distance learning if need be.

See the school's website for more information about fall classes as well as precautions being taken this summer.

Alex Tejada

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