College of the Mainland recently released guidelines for a phased reopening that, even with COVID-19 cases on the rise, would bring students and faculty back to campus for the start of the fall term in August.

“For the moment, almost everything we’re doing right now is online, so we’re not really going to see any significant changes to what we’re doing at this moment until the middle of August, and, hopefully, by then, everything will settle down,” College of the Mainland President Warren Nichols said.

After a full closure of facilities, which ended May 1, the college is in the second phase of a five-phased reopening plan, which means minimal campus access. The only workers on campus full time are construction workers and police officers, Nichols said.

“The only ones currently on campus are the ones who are absolutely required for hands-on or face-to-face, and even then, we’re requiring everyone on campus to wear masks,” Nichols said.

Next up and targeted to begin Aug. 10 in the reopening process is a pre-opening phase, in which non-instructional staff, such as advisors and others to help with registration, will return to the campus on a part-time basis, Nichols said.

“We’ll have limited staff who will be returning to facilitate registration for the fall term,” Nichols said. “But, most of everything we’ll be doing will still be in an online setting.”

When students and faculty return to school for the fall term, classrooms will be limited to 50 percent capacity, and all those entering campus facilities will be required to wear face coverings, must remain 6 feet apart from each other and will be encouraged to frequently wash their hands. College employees will be required to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms and will play a role in cleaning work spaces.

At 50 percent capacity, classes that meet twice a week will have one of those days set aside for online-only learning, Nichols said.

“If there were 30 students in a class traditionally, we would have 15 of the students in the class on a Monday, and then the other 15 would come in on a Wednesday, and they would be in front of the same instructor getting the same lecture material,” Nichols said. “And, on the other day when they’re not in the classroom, they would be getting the rest of it in an online environment.”

The final phase of reopening is a return to normal dubbed “blue skies.” That will occur when state and local officials declare an end to the pandemic emergency, Nichols said.

Should the situation dictate it, a delay or scaling back of the college’s reopening schedule and a return to online-only instruction will occur, Nichols said.

“We built this in such a way that if we need to move back to less on campus and more online, we can do that,” Nichols said. “That’s not our desire, but we’re prepared for that.”

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews


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