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“Mask optional” environments will be introduced to SD public universities

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 4:59 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - May 10th marks the beginning of summer sessions for South Dakota public universities and the end of mask mandates on campuses.

The Board of Regents announced Tuesday morning that due to widely available COVID-19 vaccines “mask optional” environments will be introduced.

Jim Rankin, president of South Dakota Mines, believes students will look forward to returning to a more “normal” campus life.

“We really think students will be excited in the fall to come back in the fall for in-person classes. Some students like the fact that you can watch them online so, we will still record a lot of our classes so that you could watch it online if you really wanted to, but we really think the students want to come back and be in person,” said Rankin.

Rankin said all school activities like athletic games and homecoming events are on track to return to normal.

He also says zoom classes won’t completely go away for the university, but being a STEM college with mostly engineering and science degrees, in-person hands-on labs and programming are important.

“During this year it’s been tough. We would have labs where you couldn’t have everyone in at the same time because of social distancing. It really makes it a lot tougher. Getting in where we’re in-person and we’re getting the full lab compliment really adds to the educational opportunities of what we’re trying to do,” said Rankin.

The Geology Museum will continue to mandate masks for at least the first part of the summer as traffic there continues to draw in a number of tourists. They will reevaluate mid-summer based on vaccination numbers.

The School of Mines encourages those who attend this weekend’s graduation ceremony to continue to social distance.

Other South Dakota Universities are planning their fall semesters and encourage students to watch university news releases and campus websites to stay up to date on COVID-19 operations.

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