Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Cloquet welcomed its students back to campus Monday as all of its in-person classes return.

“The faculty in the college is so excited to have people back on campus and just doing the best we can to follow our protocols and ensure the safety of not only our students, but the entire community,” said Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences Andrea Simek, the college’s COVID-19 response coordinator. “We are a tribal college, so we consider the greater community and the tribal community when we make our decisions.”

While the college’s employees will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 8, or undergo weekly testing under Gov. Tim Walz’s mandate for state agency employees, students in the Minnesota State colleges and universities system are not mandated to be vaccinated against the virus.

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FDLTCC staff member Josh Graham, center, visits with students Anson Vargo and Kelli Scoggin on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. Every table in the college’s commons area had a bottle of hand sanitizer. 
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
FDLTCC staff member Josh Graham, center, visits with students Anson Vargo and Kelli Scoggin on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. Every table in the college’s commons area had a bottle of hand sanitizer. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Carlton County Health and Human Services and Fond du Lac Human Services will host a vaccine clinic on campus Thursday, open to the public. Students vaccinated between Thursday and Sept. 10 will receive a $100 gift certificate to the campus bookstore.

Those vaccinated prior to that will be entered into a drawing for “big” prizes, with one grand prize, two or three smaller prizes and various gift certificates.

Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra announced last week that student athletes and students living on campus will be asked to share their vaccine status. Those who don’t will be assumed to be unvaccinated. All unvaccinated residential students and athletes will be required to have weekly testing.

FDLTCC has about 45 students in its on-campus dorms that are purposefully at half capacity, with only one person to a bedroom.

FDLTCC social worker Ashley Tegels talks with student DeShon Simmons on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. 
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
FDLTCC social worker Ashley Tegels talks with student DeShon Simmons on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

“They're set up apartment style so they each have their own individual bedroom,” Simek said. “They may share a living space, but they don't share sleeping quarters.”

Since the college has not yet asked its campus members to volunteer their vaccine status information, Simek said it can only reference county immunization rates to gauge where the campus might be. About 70% of Carlton County residents age 16 and older have had at least one dose of the vaccine.

“We know that Fond du Lac Human Services have done a tremendous job with their outreach to our local tribal community,” Simek said. “Carlton County has done a fantastic job as well. Historically, Carlton County has really good numbers in the state, whether it’s positivity rate, case count or vaccination rates.”

“We're very happy and proud to work with our local public health and tribal public health,” Simek added. “And I think our numbers will be good, not perfect, but comparatively, I think that we'll have good numbers.”

Like many colleges, FDLTCC reinstated a mask mandate in campus buildings during the first week of August. That will stay in place until Carlton County and its surrounding counties fall below “substantial” rate of COVID-19 transmission, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A sign reminding people to maintain social distances between one another hangs on a door at FDLTCC on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. 
Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune
A sign reminding people to maintain social distances between one another hangs on a door at FDLTCC on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune