Westminster College will trade student bodies for those of police officers and other public safety personnel during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

The college will lease its campus to the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command for almost the entire month of February, President Peggy Stock announced Thursday. Students will miss class from Friday, Feb. 1, through Tuesday, Feb. 26.

"We had several international groups interested in the facility," Stock said. "But we felt strongly that we should support our home state of Utah."

The arrangement goes a long way toward solving the housing concerns of the command, which needs about 3,500 police officers and another 1,000 fire and emergency medical staff to handle public safety issues during the Games.

"It's a win-win situation. It's a good deal for them and good for us," command spokesman Chris Kramer said. "We're really happy to get it. Space is really at a premium."

Locating sufficient space to house, feed and brief public safety staff has been difficult, he said. Westminster will turn over its 500 dorm rooms, and the command will also use college classrooms, auditoriums, recreational facilities and food services. The central location with good access to Interstate 80 is also ideal, Kramer said. Security around the campus will be enhanced throughout the command's stay, he added.

The actual price the command will pay to lease the college is still unknown but a contract should be finalized sometime in December, Kramer said. Lease revenues will go to the Legacy 2002 Fund, supporting a number of Westminster initiatives, Stock said.

Westminster is heavy into the Olympics. College officials are encouraging students to participate in Olympic-related internships during the spring semester. (Stock herself will be volunteer chairwoman of the Salt Palace media center during the Games.)

"A college education is about connecting with the world and having new experiences," Stock said Thursday. "The Olympics embody this. Our students' education will be better at the end of the 2002 school year than it would have been if we remained open."

Despite the long winter break for students, the spring semester will remain the same in terms of class time (14 weeks of classes and one week of final exams). Classes will start right after the new year, and spring break will be folded into the Olympic break.

Utah colleges and universities are all over the map when it comes to suspending classes during the Games. The U. won't hold classes the entire time. Utah State University will suspend classes the first week but not the second. Southern Utah University and Utah Valley State College won't make any change for the Games. Others are still deciding.

Brigham Young University will carry on as usual except that it will offer more classes on a "block" schedule. Block courses condense a semester to eight weeks, offering flexibility so class schedules can be adjusted for students involved in Olympic activities.

BYU associate academic vice president Noel Reynolds said an estimated 1,000 journalism, foreign language, performing arts and physical education students from BYU plan to volunteer or work internships during the two-week event.

E-MAIL: alan@desnews.com ; dobner@desnews.com