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Montana State University’s traditional one-day Move-In Day will be stretched out over seven days next month, when thousands of students are expected to move into the dormitories, to keep people distanced and safer from the coronavirus.

Move-In Week will be Aug. 10 to 16.

To keep people from getting too close to each other, MSU will stagger students’ arrival times and have them sign up for specific, two-hour slots to move in, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. That’s to reduce congestion on elevators and ensure there are no long lines.

Each student can be accompanied by only two family members at a time inside the dorms.

And MSU is asking everyone who goes inside to wear a face mask and to keep a 6-foot distance from others, both inside and outside.

“If you have a face mask, please bring one,” James Tobin, associate director of residence life, said in a webinar recorded on MSU’s website.

The Montana University System had decided to “strongly encourage” wearing face masks when Tobin sent his message to families in mid-June.

But on Thursday, the commissioner of the University System announced officials would reconsider whether to require face masks, in light of the growing number of cases nationally and in Montana, the growing number of young people infected and new studies on the effectiveness of face masks.

MSU has ordered 20,000 Bobcat-logo face masks, said Tracy Ellig, MSU spokesman.

The cotton masks have two layers, Ellig said, with what the manufacturer describes as natural anti-microbial material outside and inside that should kill 99% of harmful bacteria, natural probiotic on inside to reduce skin irritation, 120-thread count outside and 205-thread count inside.

This fall the new $50 million, 510-bed Hyalite Hall dormitory on West College Street will open for the first time. It will increase MSU’s inventory of dorm rooms to 4,400. About 30% of MSU students live on campus.

“Most bed spaces will be for freshmen,” wrote Michael Becker, MSU spokesman. “At this moment, it is near capacity.”

Asked how student enrollment is shaping up for this fall, Becker said the number is “about the same as last year’s, in other words, it looks steady. But we remain very cautious as this is unlike any fall we’ve ever experienced. It’s impossible to predict what the coming weeks will bring in the state and nation.”

So far 32 spaces have been set aside to quarantine any students who come down with coronavirus, and more are being considered, Becker said.

He stressed that students living in the dorms will have “more reinforcement for following health guidelines — such as social distancing, mask wearing and good hygiene” and benefit from “more rigorous and regular cleaning of their living areas.”

“We are working hard to ensure that we minimize the risk for students who live in our residence halls,” Becker wrote.

MSU announced earlier its decision to have fall classes start two weeks early on Aug. 17, so that courses can end at Thanksgiving to reduce the chances of students returning after the break and spreading the virus.

To move into the dorms, students will have to bring their Cat Cards or photo IDs to check in at their dorm’s front desk and get keys. They’re urged to bring a handcart if they have one, as well as drills, screwdrivers and rubber mallets, though some will be available to borrow.

MSU is encouraging students to ship boxes of belongings ahead of time, addressed to their dorm room, to arrive after July 27.

Some students will move into the dorms before Aug. 10. These include students signed up for marching band, athletics, Adventures MSU, Expeditions, Trailheads and Native Pathways to Success. Some 110 students hired as residence assistants, or RAs, and those hired as dining hall staff can also move in early.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at or 582-2633.