The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, began classes for this academic year Wednesday, with a number of changes to reduce the exposure of cadets, faculty and staff to the coronavirus.

The entire class of roughly 4,400 cadets has returned to the academy, and will be attending classes split roughly evenly between online and in-person lessons, academy spokesman Mike Slater said in an email Wednesday. Bringing about half the courses online will result in smaller in-person class sizes, Slater said, which will make it easier for cadets to socially distance when they gather.

The academy also said July 23 that it would house 400 healthy students in off-campus hotels for at least the fall semester, to free up dorm space for quarantining and isolating cadets who have contracted or been exposed to the coronavirus.

And the academy said it would change up military training, classes, cadet living arrangements and other activities to build in social distancing space.

In-person classes will try to use “creative solutions” to allow more social distancing, including holding classes outside when possible, using larger classrooms for smaller classes, and having labs and other hands-on coursework in small groups.

Cadets, faculty and staff will be required to wear face coverings nearly all the time they are in Fairchild Hall, which is the main facility housing classrooms, offices and the cadet medical and dental clinic. Faculty and staff will be allowed to remove their masks while alone in their offices.

This week marks the first time the entire cadet wing has taken classes at the academy since mid-March, when the academy began dismissing the majority of cadets as the coronavirus pandemic accelerated.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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