North Arkansas College students can plan on returning to campus this fall, but details about maximum classroom occupancy, proper social distancing safeguards and protective measures, disinfecting procedures, use of masks, and how to limit the number of individuals in common areas among other questions will be announced early in July.
A Healthy Campus Task Force comprised of faculty, staff and students is working to guide planning for the next academic year and is preparing a preliminary report to be released July 2, 2020. The report will be used to advise administrators, a press release said.
In early March, Northark transitioned to remote delivery and almost all summer classes are online.
“I’m looking forward to seeing students back on campus this fall,” a cautiously optimistic college president Dr. Randy Esters said. “I created the Healthy Campus Task Force because I know that it’s essential that our plan creatively balances protecting the campus community while ensuring high-quality instruction for students. We all know that there will be a new normal this fall and we will have to define what that is. The good news is that we have become more agile with various forms of instructional delivery over the last semester and we have more tools to provide students with such as laptops and hot spots. We are also investing heavily in new technologies to provide students with a multitude of choices so they can fearlessly learn.”
There are various options for instructional delivery in the mix for fall, but it’s not a one size fits all solution. Jasper’s Hope Brasel, a nursing student, says she loves taking online classes because they’re convenient. Her schoolmate, Shianna Brasel, prefers hands-on classes because simulations inspire “a ton of questions.”
The Healthy Campus Task Force is also thinking about the possibility of a shift to remote instruction should an outbreak cause another disruption to face-to-face classes.
“I asked them to have contingency plans for each class and every section if remote delivery becomes necessary again,” Esters said. “As much as we all want to bring normal back, this has led to an exciting shift in how we do college moving forward. Imagine watching a television show and being able to be a character in that show. We have taken that idea and adapted it to college classrooms. Classes will be going on with some students who prefer a personal environment, but other students can participate in real-time on their phone, tablet or computer. It doesn’t matter if they are in Jasper or Japan, Marshall or Morocco, Harrison or Hamburg, they can be in a Northark class.”
Several options and ideas were discussed by the task force during the first “brain storming session.”
Esters began the discussion letting the group know that all ideas were should be considered. Some of the thoughts were alternating classes so half met on campus and half remotely, delivering lectures remotely and labs on campus, altering daily schedules to reduce the number of people in the halls and modifying the College Grill service to pre-prepared meals.
Things are creeping back toward normal as Northark continues with their first phase of normalcy. The College Store (bookstore) reopened earlier this month by appointment. Only two students were allowed in the store at one time and students were screened for fever or symptoms prior to entering. Plans are being considered to resume some functions of the testing center and there appears to be more cars in the parking lots as employees return to their offices to serve students. All offices and services are available vis telephone, email and the college’s website.