Trapper Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation (CCC) Center, south of Darby, MT, now has reopened following an almost year-long COVID-19 shutdown. The center is part of the 24 Civilian Conservation Corps centers operated by the USDA Forest Service. Trapper Creek, on the Bitterroot National Forest, welcomed back 18 students January 12. The students had to undergo COVID-19 testing and a two-week quarantine before they were allowed back to person-to-person classes. Distance learning has been in place since March of last year.

The center plans to bring in 18 students every third Tuesday. Officials expect it will take four months to get all of last year's students back, but they are keeping staff and students updated on their Facebook page.

During the past few months, the CCC center has been re-configuring the campus on West Fork Road. Under the phased re-admission policies, students have been following new safety requirements, including face masks, maintaining social distancing, frequent hand-washing and using personal protective equipment. Alicia Bennett of USDA reported that the Bitterroot Valley center was reopened with the guidance from the Department of Labor, the Forest Service and local health officials.

Regular classes have begun, along with the daily 6 p.m. dormitory meetings (see photo below), where the students and staff discuss the daily activities and plan dormitory work assignments and schedules for the next day.

As mentioned in the news release, Trapper Creek's mission is to transform "these young people's lives through career development and natural resource and conservation training. The center has a variety of academic and career courses - from welding to carpentry to forest fire fighting. The Trapper Creek Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center has been at the top of best-performing centers in the US many times since its creation in the 1960s.

The daily dormitory meeting with social distancing and masks. (Gary Mitchell Photo)

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