With mandatory facemasks, daily temperature checks, social distancing, and sanitizing kits in every classroom, last week’s return to campus for the Fall semester looked drastically different from year’s past at Washington State Community College (WSCC).
“It’s great to have faculty, staff, and students back on campus,” said WSCC President Dr. Vicky Wood. While it is not the first time students have been in classrooms since the onset of the pandemic, Wood said it is the largest number of students that have been on campus since March. “During the summer, students returned to campus to complete their spring semester laboratory courses and we held summer semester lab courses on campus.”
Addressing the concern of social distancing in classrooms that are traditionally filled to capacity, Wood said the college opted to have fewer students on campus for the Fall semester. She explained that some in-person classes were shifted to remote delivery to help reduce the on-campus population. Instructors were also encouraged to adopt HyFlex (Hybrid-Flexible) course models, which allow students to choose between online learning, in-person learning, or a combination thereof to suit their needs. These changes helped reduce the on-campus population by a minimum of 25%.
The college has also taken numerous, proactive measures to reduce the spread of this virus and ensure the safety of the campus community. “Washington State Community College has been working closely with our local health department and Memorial Health System to develop a COVID Notification Protocol and our Stay Safe plan,” said Wood.
The college is continuing to disinfect all public spaces, classrooms, and offices frequently. Additional hand sanitizer dispensers, classroom cleaning kits, and plexiglass barriers have been placed around campus in classrooms, the library, and other frontline offices. The maximum occupancy of classrooms and gathering spaces across campus has been reduced and class start times have been staggered to reduce congestion in the hallways and encourage social distancing.
Faculty and students alike have been receptive to the implementation of the safety protocols. “I feel very positive about them,” confirmed Jill Anderson, Associate Professor of English. “I think they are protecting me and the students.” She said feedback from her students indicate they are agreeable with the precautions because many of them ‘are just happy to be back in the classroom.’
Paige Hartley, a College Credit Plus student from Marietta High School describes the return to campus as “normal, other than everyone is masked up. There’s just extra cleaning and extra precautions. Other than that, I feel like it’s just another school year.”
Wood said the college, which has followed the guidelines of federal, state, and local ordinances from the onset of the virus, has maintained the wellbeing of its campus population as its highest priority. “The health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff are paramount,” she assured. “We believe we have an effective plan that safely allows us to continue to have a presence here on campus. Should our current situation change, we have a plan in place that will allow us to seamlessly transition to remote learning.”
For more information about the college’s COVID response protocols, visit wscc.edu/stay-safe.