Are students and faculty ready to return to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic? Leadership at the college think so. Plans for faculty, students and employees to return to campus are progressing. But the college plans to bring a more physical presence on campus beginning in April and hope to move back to a traditional campus environment in the fall.
“We are moving forward with a plan for beginning to bring more of our populations back to campus,” Mickey McCloud, vice president of Student Affairs, said in a statement. “Dr. Bowne has set the expectation that we will have all of our offices staffed and open during our normal historical business hours as of April 5, with continued use of distancing and masking protocols.”
With an effort underway to vaccinate all the college’s employees and positive COVID-19 tests trending downward locally, it seems a good time to push for a return to normalcy on campus.
Other community colleges within the Greater Kansas City area are also taking varied approaches to returning to in-person teaching for the Fall semester. Both Donnelly College and Kansas City Kansas Community College plan to bring students and faculty back in some capacity starting fall of 2021.
While it is unknown what the administration’s vision of a return to normalcy will look like, the college has offered a hybrid of virtual and in-person courses during the Spring semester.
“I had a little bit of misgivings in the beginning, but everyone was really good about wearing masks and they provided sanitations, so you would come in and wipe down your area, before and after the class,” Melissa Wasserman, a professor who has taught in person since the beginning of the Spring semester, said. “They kept the classes really small, because of the pandemic, in one class I only have eight students and in another they capped it at eleven.”
The college has also arranged for all employees to have priority access to receive vaccinations through the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. This comes as welcome news, as higher education has not been designated as necessary by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment until recently.
“The state made an adjustment to their plan to include higher education and they were leaving it up to each county to determine how they were going to work with higher education,” Alisa Pacer, director of Emergency Management at the college, said. “So once the state made that decision, basically our executives were in contact with various professionals so see how those possibilities might work in Johnson County and then I was notified that Johnson County Department of Health and Environment agreed to factor us in and allow us to hold vaccination clinic for employees.”
As an added incentive to receive the vaccination, employees of the college will receive a $250 remuneration, which has been received positively by employees so far.
“I was surprised about that, but obviously I think it’s really nice of them to encourage people to get vaccinated, because obviously I want all my coworkers to be vaccinated as well,” Wasserman said. “So, it’s a good incentive.”
While employees and faculty are being offered the vaccine, the college has no plans in place to offer vaccinations to students, but they are not ruling it out.
By Jacob Martin