Welcome sign to Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, one of the colleges that will now require students taking classes in-person to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Credit: Caitlin Rogers / BDN

The Maine Community College System will require students attending classes in person to get the COVID-19 vaccine, a policy that comes as cases rise in Maine due to the delta variant.

The seven-college system’s previous position had been that only students who were living in one of the system’s dorms would need to be vaccinated, along with athletes. The system’s board of trustees unanimously approved the change in policy on Thursday, system spokesperson Noel Gallagher said.

“The latest information about the delta variant makes it clear we must require vaccinations to keep our community as safe as possible,” Maine Community College System President David Daigler said.

Students who do not provide proof of vaccination will be immediately unenrolled from all in-person classes. The system will not grant exemptions based on religious or philosophical beliefs, though students who have a documented medical reason for why they can’t get the vaccine can go to class and take weekly COVID-19 tests.

The community college system has nearly 16,000 students enrolled at its seven colleges across Maine, including Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor and colleges in Auburn, Calais, Fairfield, Presque Isle, South Portland and Wells.

The colleges will continue to require masks indoors for all students regardless of vaccination status.

While staff and faculty are not currently required to be vaccinated under the policy, system officials are in negotiations with employee bargaining units to extend the requirement to staff members.

The University of Maine System announced last week that it would require all of the students attending classes in person to be vaccinated, and the list of Maine colleges and universities planning to require that students be vaccinated has been steadily growing.

Community college students will need to show administrators proof that they have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before classes begin on Aug. 30. If they have received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, they will be required to show proof of a second shot within 30 days.

The policy will not apply to students who are taking classes from the college exclusively remotely. About 45 percent of the system’s courses will be remote in the fall. The policy, however, will apply for anybody taking classes at an off-site education center associated with any of the colleges.