This week, the Virginia Community College System announced in a press release that all of Virginia’s community colleges “are open for business and ready to help individuals meet their educational needs as safely as possible.”
The system office provided several broad outlines for fall classes. Courses that require a face-to-face component will be allowed to meet provided social distancing and sanitizing measures are in place. Colleges should be ready to respond to new guidance from public health experts and government officials. Colleges should provide students with ample online course options and modify face-to-face course options to meet social distancing guidelines.
Concurrently, Patrick Henry Community College’s President, Dr. Angeline Godwin appointed members to a task force called the New Reality Task Force to ensure PHCC is prepared to safely welcome students back in the fall. The group has been asked to identify safety measures that need to be taken, training needs for staff and faculty, students’ access and equity needs, and more.
Although some of the measures PHCC established in March to limit the spread of the virus will remain in place, college leadership urged the task force members to craft plans that would enable the college to offer as many on-campus opportunities to students as will be reasonable and safe. The college intends to provide a variety of options to students this fall including remote classes, hybrid classes [which meet both online and in-person], and modified on-campus classes that support social distancing measures.
“We will aim to provide as many different opportunities as we can because we recognize that our students have a variety of needs,” Godwin said. “We have students that deeply appreciate the online learning platform for the security and flexibility it provides. However, some of our students are most vulnerable in an exclusively remote environment. We know that they especially need face-to-face engagement whenever possible. We will be ready to meet both needs by providing both options and carefully adhering to the best practices in health safety.”
This week, PHCC announced one of the first steps it is taking to prepare for fall – a plan to incrementally return to a normal operating schedule. Since March, the campus has been operating with minimal staff Monday through Wednesday with all employees working remotely Thursday through Friday. At that time, the college’s operating hours were also changed to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Most employees have been working no more than one day a week on campus. Now, the college will begin altering this schedule in phases.
Beginning June 22, the college will be opening Monday through Thursday. Employees will begin working two days on campus each week. The campus will remain closed on Fridays for deep cleaning and sanitizing. Employees will continue to work remotely on days that they are not on campus. The operating hours will remain 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For the week of June 29, the college will be closed to allow maintenance and housekeeping the opportunity to deploy new safety initiatives in preparation for the returning students. All employees not directly involved in the retrofitting will be working remotely.
Beginning Monday, July 6, staff will be working on campus Monday through Thursday. Employees will continue working remotely on Fridays to allow for deep cleaning. PHCC’s operational hours will remain 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Beginning Monday, August 3, PHCC will return to the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. operating hours Monday through Thursday. Fridays will remain remote working days to allow for deep cleaning and sanitizing.
“While we cannot guarantee the safety of anyone, we are doing our best to continue balancing our two most important objectives – providing excellent instruction and educational opportunities and providing a campus that is a safe and inviting place to learn and work. We strive to be a place where everyone feels safe to pursue their goals and go for their dreams,” Godwin said.