Central Wyoming College - NOLS Teton Valley
NOLS, the popular outdoor education program, welcomes small cohort of students to Wyoming. Photo: Courtesy NOLS

WYOMING – After suspending all programs worldwide in mid-March due to coronavirus concerns, NOLS has announced a limited scale, phased summer reopening for July and August. The decision to resume courses represents a comprehensive effort by the school in consultation with federal, state, and local public health experts, peer organizations, and medical advisors.

“A NOLS education is life-changing,” said Terri Watson, President of NOLS. “Our students learn to thrive in an uncertain and evolving world. That’s important now more than ever, and we have confidence that welcoming students back to our programs is the right first step.”

The school is planning to run 32 field courses in July and August, operating from Lander and Boulder, Wyoming. In comparison, the school typically operates approximately 287 field courses in Wyoming during the peak summer season. A selection of Wilderness Medicine courses will be offered both domestically and internationally.

All other NOLS programming around the world will remain suspended through the summer season, and the Wilderness Risk Management Conference (WRMC), scheduled for late October, will pivot to a digital event.

The decision to resume operations on a limited scale involved the work of an internal task force and support across all aspects of the school. Like many educational organizations, NOLS has been closely monitoring the novel coronavirus pandemic both domestically and abroad. The NOLS Restart Task Force, representing leaders with extensive NOLS experience spanning our educational offering, has been working for months to define criteria needed for restart and identify operational changes needed to bring students, staff, and faculty together in a responsible manner.

Extensive changes in course structure and logistics were devised to create educational experiences that remain true to the character of a NOLS education while supporting COVID-19 prevention strategies to limit risk to staff and students. The task force’s methods for proceeding with limited offerings were reviewed and supported by the school’s medical advisors, local health departments, and federal land management agencies.

New and revised practices cover all aspects of course programming. Students arriving for Lander-based expedition programs will start their course at a private property outside city limits in lieu of the Noble Hotel or the Rocky Mountain Campus. This allows students to be in an outdoor environment and reduces concentration in town. NOLS Wilderness Medicine practices align with others in healthcare education, and comply with relevant country, state, and local guidelines. Lander-based Wilderness Medicine courses will continue to utilize the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus.