Trinidad State brought students back from an extended winter break on Jan. 17, and wasted no time getting the ball rolling in a new semester.

“We asked students to quarantine at home for two weeks before they arrived, and then we asked them to come to campus with a negative test before they arrive. Students were expected to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours before moving in.” said TSJC President Rhonda Epper.

TSJC’s move in plan was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions and the late start took the place of student’s spring break.

Within the first week, athletic practices were underway, students were back in the classroom and events were already being scheduled.

“We are crazy busy; we have got seven teams going right now. The only team we do not have going right now is Soccer. I do not think we have ever had seven teams going full season at once before,” said TSJC Athletic Director Mike Salbato.

Volleyball started the TSJC 2021 athletic season traveling to Western Nebraska Community College for a tournament on Jan. 23.

“Indoors, we are not going to have any fans in Scott Gym. Whenever we play here there are a ton of rules, a lot were set up by the referees,” said Salbato.

Bringing students back later than anticipated due to COVID-19 restrictions in the county, Men’s and Women’s basketball is not set to start until early February.

Salbato hopes as COVID-19 restrictions ease students will be allowed into Scott Gym to cheer on the Trojan teams.

The start of the new semester brings three new programs to the TSJC campus, Theatre Tech, Construction Trades and Trail Construction and Maintenance.

The Theatre Tech program is catapulted forward by a $200,000 Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant for improvements and updates to the Massari Theatre, the college matched the funds.

“The Theatre Tech program will prepare students to enter a four-year bachelors program in theatre,” said TSJC Theatre Professor Chris Smith.

The grant will replace the lighting system that was original to the building which was constructed in 1979.

Also included in the grant spending will be, sound renovations, cosmetic changes to the building as well as scenery and drapery.

“The Massari Theatre and its upgrades will allow students to have hands on training in the very latest theatre technology,” said Smith.

The revived Construction trades program at TSJC will take off this spring, the program was jump started by a grant from the Colorado Attorney Generals office.

“It’s a short term five credit certificate that gives students basic skills as an entry level construction worker. The way the program will work is the students will learn in the classroom in the morning and then in the afternoon they will be on a job site remodeling a local house here in Trinidad. Students will receive a set of tools and will be paid for their time working on the construction site,” said Epper.

Trail Construction and Maintenance will return to TSJC and direct its focus on the newly opened Fisher’s Peak State Park.

The program will begin again in April and will develop trails on the State Park, classes will be one weeklong.

The pandemic has taken its toll on TSJC, most notably has been in the admissions office.  

Epper said, “We’re suffering from lower enrollments this year, that is something that is affecting community colleges disproportionately.”

In the fall Trinidad State’s enrollment was down seven percent from the 2019 fall semester, the spring semester is down 13 percent.

“Existing socioeconomic inconsistencies are being magnified and were seeing that here we are losing a lot of first-generation students, low-income students and students of color. And we do not know if those students will ever come back to college,” said Epper.

Trinidad State is also in the midst of changing their name, coming up in Colorado legislation this year is TSJC’s request to drop “Junior” out of their name.

Epper emphasized, “We are not changing our mission, we will still be offering primarily two-year degrees as well as career and technical certificates and selected bachelor’s degrees.”

The bill is sponsored by Colorado District-35 Senator Cleave Simpson and, if passed would take effect on July 1, 2021.

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