Thousands of students have descended on the University of Montana campus for the beginning of a fall semester like no other in the 127 year history of the institution.

University of Montana Communications Director Paula Short said that fall orientation actually began on Monday morning.

We’re seeing lots of bright shining faces with a little apprehension with some of those new freshmen but they're getting in the swing of things on campus today.

“Today's the first day of orientation in earnest,” said Short. “So we’re seeing lots of bright shining faces with a little apprehension with some of those new freshmen but they're getting in the swing of things on campus today. We've worked hard to maintain a lot of the elements that we believe are important for that first year freshman experience. They're still being able to meet with their peer groups, and they're learning their way around campus.”

The difference is that few of them have had any on-campus experience with COVID 19.

“The mode of doing that though is a little bit different, right?” she said. “The groups are smaller, the masks are being worn. The physical distancing and there's an online element to some of the programming, but so far it's a mix of the new and the old and a COVID environment for our new students. But what's really great is to see that despite all of that disruption and change, some things never change, which is a chance to connect meet new people and, and you can just feel the excitement of our students as they get ready to start their college careers.”

Each new student, as well as staff and faculty are all being outfitted with the ‘Healthy Griz Kits’.

“We started our distribution of the Healthy Griz Kits,” she said. “So every student and employee on campus is getting a kit that includes two cloth reusable masks. It also has a refillable bottle of surface disinfectant along with a microfiber cloth for surface cleaning, and it has a bottle of hand sanitizer that is also refillable.”

Classes are scheduled to begin on Wednesday throughout the UM campus.

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