After winter break, unvaccinated Santa Fe Community College students will have a choice: get immunized against COVID-19 or exclusively take classes online.

Of the 1,571 students planning to take in-person classes this spring, just 302 have submitted proof of their first vaccine dose or applied for a medical or religious exemption, according to the school.

Proof of the first dose is due Jan. 18, when the spring term begins, for those who plan to continue classes on campus.

In November, the college followed in the footsteps of other schools like the University of New Mexico in requiring in-person students and employees to be fully vaccinated, effective following winter break.

Those granted medical or religious exemptions will need to provide periodic proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

SFCC President Becky Rowley said she and other administrators were keeping watch on how other schools rolled out mandates before implementing one.

“Part of our reluctance to jump out and be first was that this is a complicated thing,” Rowley said.

Students will have until Feb. 18 to get their second dose of the vaccine, or else they’ll need to switch to online classes or drop out. Unvaccinated students, according to the college’s website, won’t be permitted to access any in-person services like the SFCC bookstore.

Employees had to get their first vaccine dose by Nov. 30. They’re expected to have their second by Jan. 6.

Of the school’s roughly 475 “regular” employees, 95 percent had either submitted proof of vaccination or had applied for an exemption as of Friday, according to the human resources department.

Spokesman Todd Lovato said SFCC is still compiling data on how many employees opted to apply for an exemption, though Rowley said staff “overwhelmingly” opted to submit vaccination proof.

She said Friday in an interview adjunct faculty members — there are about 300 — will need to present proof of vaccination upon signing any contracts ahead of the spring semester. That group was not subject to the Nov. 30 deadline.

Rowley said the college has not seen any resignations caused by the new requirement, and she expects the school will add a booster shot requirement at some point.

How the mandates might affect enrollment remains unclear.

The school has seen a 34 percent boost in spring enrollment compared with the same time last school year, according to Associate Vice President for Student Success Thomasinia Ortiz-Gallegos — and 60 percent of them are enrolled in at least one in-person class.

“We could lose enrollment, but we don’t expect to lose much,” Rowley said. “I think we might have lost students had we not done this [mandate].”

The other 40 percent are set to attend SFCC exclusively as remote students. Ortiz-Gallegos said the school is trying to offer “extended services” for those students, including those who might choose not to get vaccinated.

Since August 2020, the college has counted 64 COVID-19 cases in people who were on campus — though the college’s website states it hasn’t seen any indication of on-campus spread.

The school has no intention of lifting its mask requirement anytime soon, unless the outlook of the pandemic changes dramatically, Rowley said.

“We never lifted our indoor mask requirement, ever,” Rowley said. “We knew how important that was going to be for us.”

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