• July 9, 2020

OC reopening with health guidance - Odessa American: Education

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OC reopening with health guidance

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Posted: Monday, June 1, 2020 2:21 pm

Odessa College has re-opened for students and is in the process of figuring out what the fall is going to look like.

Vice President for Student Services Kim McKay said May 26 was the first day that services such as registration, financial aid, advising and testing were open after shutting down due to COVID-19.

“We’re working closely to make sure that all of our processes and protocols are aligned with CDC guidelines, including social distancing and on-campus screening. We have been fortunate enough to have really strong remote working practices and so we don’t feel like there’s been a disruption in service to students. Of course, depending on your ability to manage technology and how comfortable you are in those transactions you may have preferred to wait for us to be open,” McKay said.

Summer courses are all online with the exception of applied learning or applied labs.

“That’s a lot of the workforce courses, including things like welding, some of the nursing, allied health, school of health sciences …,” McKay said.

For courses that require students to come on campus, OC will have a process in place to limit the number of people in a lab and “screening will be required before they start the learning experience with the instructor,” she added.

The campus also is being cleaned regularly.

“We’ve increased sanitation protocols on campus, cleaning frequently between meetings and in between visits with students and have Plexiglas shields where appropriate to mitigate the spread of the virus during a transaction. And then for fall, it looks like most of all the courses will also be delivered in an online format, again with the exception of those classes that need to meet on campus for applied learning,” McKay said.

“We feel like that’s the smartest strategy at this point. Of course, it could change at any time but that’s how we’re moving forward,” she added.

Plexiglas shields have been installed in all student transaction areas such as the Wrangler Express and financial aid. Masks are strongly recommended on campus, but not required. Many staff members will be wearing masks.

“We also have the ‘wait here’ signs on the floor,” McKay said. “We have implemented an online check in system so students are stopped at the front door and students can use a QR code to check into the department that would like to visit and then wait in their car and be called in when the specialist is available and ready to see them.”

“We’re hoping that will mitigate some of the loitering and just the hanging out that happens as part of registration on college campuses,” she added.

OC had the Who’s Next application that was typically used on campus to let people know when they should go to a given office.

“But the vendor, due to the pandemic, has provided a new resource that allows us to give students access to that remotely so that they can sign in from their car and wait to be texted or called when their visit’s ready. And then (for) some of those students this will turn into us delivering something to your vehicle. If you’re just here to pick up a diploma or transcript and that’s the way you’ve signed into our sign-in system, then we can make arrangements to deliver that to your car as well,” McKay said.

Decisions on things like student housing and spectators at sporting events has not yet been made. McKay said a lot will depend on what happens with National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) athletics and what the seasons look like.

“We’ve had several tabletop sessions and built some scenarios that we are prepared for, but we’re waiting for a little more guidance from NJCAA and then, of course, guidance from our administration and the board,” McKay said.

There are new sanitation practices in place. Every time they leave a room that’s not their own personal, private office space they make sure to use hospital-grade cleaners to wipe down tables, chairs, light switches and door knobs. 

“It’s become routine and I hope it’s a practice that we continue looking at ways to do the same in classrooms once we bring more students back and how we will continue those sanitization practices that really are the best thing for students as well as our employees,” McKay said.

She said they have gone through the campus and made accommodations to promote social distancing like closing every other restroom and every other sink.

“We’ve removed a lot of the furniture that allows students and visitors to sit and congregate in certain spaces, so those things I anticipate will continue to be normal practice through the fall,” McKay said. “As far as classrooms go, we’re waiting to get some additional guidance.”

The library has continued to stay open for students as a resource even during the safer at home orders.

“They screen all visitors prior to entry and then they have rearranged furniture and created work spaces that promote social distancing and really mitigate some of the congregating that typically happens in that area,” she added.

The coffee shop at the library reopened May 26 and will be open for employees and visitors for breakfast and lunch-type hours.

The idea of having students come back in the fall, staying until Thanksgiving break and not returning has been floated around colleges and universities nationwide.

“It will be different for us because of eight-week courses, so I’m not quite sure what that will look like,” McKay said. “We also have to take into consideration residence halls and the students that are living on campus and what that looks like so I’m anticipating those decisions will be made here, I would hope, in the near future so people can begin planning what their school year will look like.”

“We have a task force that’s been convened with employees from across the college that is looking at all the alternatives and will start making recommendations to the administration very soon about how they think we should move forward,” she added.

For cosmetology courses, Vice President for Instruction Tramaine Anderson said, “… we are following the ‘Minimum Standard Health Protocols for Career and Technical Education Programs at Texas Higher Education Institutions’ that was provided by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.”

“Only the courses that did not complete the lab portions that were left over from the Spring 2 will be able to meet using the ‘Minimum Standard Health Protocols for Career and Technical Education Programs at Texas Higher Education Institutions.’ We will begin those lab-only courses on June 1st.  We are following the Health Protocols for faculty, staff and students that are provided by the minimum standard health protocol from THECB.  These are in line with Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-18 and meet the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” Anderson said in an email.

Eventually, McKay said, things will get back to some semblance of normal.

“I think the social interaction and that peer-to-peer and peer to instructor engagement is critical to learning, so I’m prepared to do this for however long as we have to but I think part of your college experience, both education and socially, is I think that interaction is really, really important,” she said.

Odessa, TX

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