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The College of Southern Idaho campus is pictured in February 2017 in Twin Falls.

JEROME — The College of Southern Idaho is considering changing signs at some restrooms on its Twin Falls campus to make them gender neutral, but it’s unclear if or when that will happen.

Trustees asked questions about the logistics of the proposal during a April 16 meeting at CSI’s Jerome Center but didn’t express their personal opinions. It was an information item and they didn’t take any action.

Across the country — and at a couple of school districts here in the Magic Valley — school leaders are adopting gender identity policies, covering topics such as restrooms and dress codes. It’s partly in response to student concerns, including among those who are transgender.

At CSI, students brought up the topic, vice president of student services Michelle Schutt told trustees. The college’s Student Senate is supportive of the idea all students should feel safe on campus, she added.

CSI has five single-stall restrooms on campus — two in the Meyerhoeffer Building, two in the Fine Arts Center and one in the John C. Hepworth Higher Education Center — and school officials want to consider making them gender neutral. They’d also like to designate one set of restrooms in the Taylor Building as general neural.

Schutt told trustees they’d also like for gender-neutral restrooms to be considered during any new facility construction in the future.

Trustee Karl Kleinkopf asked if college officials were proposing doing any remodeling to existing restroom facilities.

No, Schutt said, it would just be changing signage. Anytime there’s a project that involves plumbing work, she added, it’s expensive.

Kleinkopf asked what students’ comments were about gender-neutral restrooms.

Dean of students Jason Ostrowski said among the students who approached CSI officials about restrooms, “they just don’t feel comfortable or safe in those areas.”

Having gender-neutral restrooms, he said, would allow for “being intentional about how inclusive we are.”

For the Student Senate, it hit home when they learned some of their peers weren’t coming to the student union building because they weren’t comfortable with the restroom setup, Ostrowski said. “Students were extremely responsive.”

Student leaders expressed wanting to maintain gender-specific restrooms too, Ostrowski said, for those who may not be comfortable using a facility anyone can go into.

During their meeting, trustees also:

  • Approved a Head Start/Early Head Start request to carry $82,900.57 in fiscal-year 2017 funds into 2018 for a parking lot chip seal/repair project.
  • Heard an information item about online education.

“Online education is front and center of most colleges and universities,” CSI President Jeff Fox told trustees.

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Educators have known for years, supported by research, that online and face-to-face education has roughly the same outcomes for students, he said, but many students prefer face-to-face classes for the relationship piece.

CSI is looking at what it should be doing for online education and how, Fox said. About 18 percent of class credits are offered online — but the rates for different academic programs vary greatly — and the college wants to slowly grow that to 20-22 percent within the next three years.

Some disciplines lend themselves better to online classes, Fox said, and it’s harder with hands-on classes such as science labs.

Fox said he finds online education changes exciting— not just significant quality control measures, but the appropriate use of online education.

CSI instructional designer Janea Triplett-Newell gave a presentation about online education initiatives a task force worked on this school year through a college “focused innovation circle grant.” It included defining the mission of online education and how to expand access to learning opportunities to serve diverse populations.

Both centers are starting a summer bridge program for recently graduated high school seniors and adults returning to school to help them get a jump-start on their college education.

They’re also offering more live instruction class options this fall, including in allied health, political science and math. And they’ll both offer a general education dual credit class for Latinos in Action high school participants.

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