This school year has been unlike any other due to the coronavirus pandemic. One change Fort Lewis College made was housing students at the Durango Downtown Inn, in order to combat the spread of the virus.
“We felt very strongly that we wanted to provide a housing option to everyone who applied and requested housing,” James Estelle, the assistant director for the office of student housing and conference services, said.
One of the reasons why FLC decided to partner with the hotel was because they received a large number of requests from students for rooms with single occupancy opportunities, Estelle said.
“It was important for us to accommodate those requests so that students felt safe in their experience on campus,” he said.
FLC rents out 134 single-occupancy rooms at a rate of $30 per room per night, plus two complimentary single-occupancy rooms per night, according to the policy between the State of Colorado, acting by and through the Board of Trustees of Fort Lewis College and Durocola Inc., the Florida corporation owning Durango Downtown Inn.
This is all of the rooms in the hotel and students will be living in them for the rest of the year, Edgar Anaya Quiroga, the director of Housing and Conduct, said.
“I think by next year it will be a lot better, but if we have to do this again for the fall semester of 2021, we will,” Rosa said.
The contract between the hotel and FLC is only for the fall semester, and a final decision about the spring semester dates have not been finalized, Julie Love, Associate Vice President for student affairs, said.
For students, housing is the same price as it would be on campus which is $3,344 for a single occupancy room for the fall semester, including parking permits, Quioroga stated.
The option to stay at the hotel was only available for returning students and transfer students, Estelle said.
They must have a vehicle, and only students who responded to a survey saying they would be open for this housing option were chosen, he added.
“Several hundred students completed the survey,” Estelle said.
Students living in the hotel are expected to follow the same guidelines as students living on campus, Quiroga said.
QR codes were placed in the hotel to continue contact tracing efforts, Quiroga said.
“No one other than students and myself are allowed to stay on the property,” Jovany Rosa, Durango Downtown Inn Property owner and manager, said.
There are two resident assistants living at the hotel, Katherine Pamplin and Katherine Potter. The resident director, Colby Connely, is there during business hours, Quiroga said.
Angel Gonzales, a student living at the hotel, received an email informing her she was chosen for hotel housing on July 20. Gonzales originally applied to live in West Hall, she said.
“The hotel will have their own staff at the front desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day and on call 24 hours a day,” Quiroga said in the email. “However, all questions should be directed to FLC staff.”
Students were also given the option to request a residential meal plan, Quiroga said in the email.
Students were informed of other food opportunities if they did not request one, Quiroga said
“There are a variety of grocery stores and restaurants nearby,” he said in email.
Students were informed in a second email, sent on Aug. 11, that they had to provide their own refrigerator and microwave for the rooms, Gonzales said.
FLC restricts students from using common areas in the hotel such as the weight room and pool, Quiroga said in the second email.
The Group Rooms Agreement states that resident students shall have access to the hotel gym but not the pool.
Students have access to two washers and three dryers for laundry, Gonzales said. The laundry is coin-operated and students cannot use their FLC SkyCard, she said.
Students have been given access to on-campus laundry machines, Estelle said.
“No hot plates, stoves, or toaster ovens are allowed,” the Group Rooms Agreement states.
Room cleaning is not provided by the hotel, the Group Rooms Agreement states.
Students do have access to all buildings on campus, and the FLC Information Technology department set up a printer in the lobby for students to use, Estelle said.
COVID-19 has made social connection difficult everywhere, and there are no community activities for students living in the hotel, Fatima Gonzales, a senior living at the hotel, said.
“I haven’t gotten around to meeting anyone yet,” she said. “RAs can’t set up hall activities.”
Gonzales is happy with the location because it is close to grocery stores, so she saves money on gas, she said.
Another positive during the time of COVID-19 is that students do not have to share a bathroom and requests for single room occupancies were fulfilled, Estelle said.
Several students have posted on the FLC app with concerns about the Wi-Fi.
The first concern about the wifi was posted on Aug. 25. Other posts regarding the Wi-Fi issue were posted as late as Sept. 9.
“The Wi-Fi has been spotty since the beginning of the school year,” Gonzales said. “Last week the Wi-Fi was completely down, and it is still down.”
Quiroga said the problem was identified back in July. The FLC IT and the IT department at the hotel have been working to fix the problem since then, he said.
“We anticipated the need for better service and started working with our campus IT department and the IT department for the hotel back in July,” he said.
A solution was identified and was expected to be implemented before school started on Aug. 24, but they needed hardware they did not expect to need, so installation took longer than expected, he said.
They continue to work on the problem and promise to keep students living in the hotel up to date on the problem, he said.
The FLC IT department is providing hotspots to students living at the hotel, Lucas King, a freshman living at the hotel, said.
“I ran out of data on the hotspot rather fast, which now means I’m back to practically no internet connection,” King said.
The hotspot data resets monthly, but King ran out in two weeks.
“Doing anything but exclusively classwork or light streaming kills the hot spot,” he said.
Technology issues at the hotel may be the toughest obstacle for the students and FLC employees to face together.
COVID-19 has made it a challenge for students, staff, business owners, and government officials alike. Being “FLC together” does not only mean accepting a change in living situations, but means a willingness to do what it takes during this uncertain time.