BEMIDJI -- Area colleges welcomed their students back for spring classes on Monday, although many did so from afar.

The Bemidji State University campus was eerily quiet on the morning of Jan. 11. Handfuls of mask-clad students meandered through the campus. Spray bottles of sanitizer and wipes rested on top of tables in common spaces. Lakeside dining cafeteria stations sat empty. Signs affixed to doors read “closed to the public.”

A student wearing a mask sits near the window in the Hobson Memorial Union on Monday, Jan. 11, the first day of spring semester classes at Bemidji State. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
A student wearing a mask sits near the window in the Hobson Memorial Union on Monday, Jan. 11, the first day of spring semester classes at Bemidji State. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

As of Jan. 10, BSU is under an “orange” level of COVID-19 precautions -- meaning BSU’s academic buildings are closed to the public, only accessible to students and faculty via keycard. All non-academic, in-person events and activities will continue to be delivered virtually until at least Feb. 1, according to BSU’s website.

A sign outside the A.C. Clark Library reminds students to scan their keycards on Monday, Jan. 11, the first day of spring semester classes at Bemidji State. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
A sign outside the A.C. Clark Library reminds students to scan their keycards on Monday, Jan. 11, the first day of spring semester classes at Bemidji State. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Sanitizer is available in common spaces in the Lower Hobson Memorial Union on Monday, Jan. 11, the first day of spring semester classes at Bemidji State. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
Sanitizer is available in common spaces in the Lower Hobson Memorial Union on Monday, Jan. 11, the first day of spring semester classes at Bemidji State. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

During a welcome video for Northwest Technical College students, BSU and NTC President Faith Hensrud greeted new students to the technical college with hope for a better spring than the last -- “We are very interested in keeping you both healthy and safe,” she said. “We’re all here to support you, to see you walk across the stage getting your diploma, certificate or degree at a very close point in the future.”

In a video announcement shot in front of Hagg Sauer Hall, Hensrud told BSU students, "We know it's not going to be exactly the semester you had imagined, but our faculty and staff are really ready for you and they are committed to your learning experience. I'm so much looking forward to having you all back in the Bemidji area, on campus, or working remotely."

A student walks through campus on Monday, Jan. 11, the first day of spring semester classes at Bemidji State. Some students are quietly returning to area colleges from winter break, while others continue studying virtually at home. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)
A student walks through campus on Monday, Jan. 11, the first day of spring semester classes at Bemidji State. Some students are quietly returning to area colleges from winter break, while others continue studying virtually at home. (Hannah Olson / Bemidji Pioneer)

Oak Hills Christian College and Leech Lake Tribal College also began spring courses on Jan. 11. Red Lake Nation College students go back to class on Jan. 19.