Barton Community College’s board of trustees limited the number of people in the room to 10 during a meeting Tuesday but kept the meeting open to the public using video communications software Zoom.
Barton has been using teleconference technology for remote support, meetings and classes for more than 20 years, said Michelle Kaiser, assistant dean of information services. It has used Zoom for the past four years.
With this technology, it isn’t unusual for BCC trustees in Great Bend to meet with employees at remote sites such as Grandview Plaza, Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, who can be seen on a large TV screen behind the audience at board meetings.
“We’ve invested consistently over the years in fundamental technology,” BCC President Carl Heilman said.
Starting Monday, March 30, many of Barton’s students will use this technology to attend class without stepping onto the campus.
At Tuesday’s meeting, administrators reported on the college’s COVID-19 response. Vice President of Instruction Elaine Simmons said a math teacher has already taught her first Zoom class and reported attendance was actually better than usual.
“We’re adapting quite well,” Heilman reported, even though, “it seems every time we answer a question, more appear.”
Dr. Kathy Kottas, dean of Workforce Training & Community Education, compared the effort to “nailing Jell-O to the wall” but said, “the teamwork has just been phenomenal.” She also noted that Barton’s nursing program has an old ventilator that could be made ready for medical use. Barton and other colleges are keeping in touch with health-care officials and letting them know what they have available.
Vice President of Administration Mark Dean said Congress passed a law that allows for up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for some employees and it applies to the college. “Unfortunately, it’s an unfunded mandate for us,” he said. The regulations are also adding “considerably” to the workload in the Human Relations office.
Student housing open
Although some students have left, student housing remains open and food services are still available to those students.
“I believe we can expect a handful of international students to be with us and we’ll care for them,” Heilman said. “The circumstance calls for us to continue to do the right thing.”
Vice President of Student Services Angie Maddy couldn’t provide a number on how many students will be housed on campus when classes resume Monday. Some may just need to return long enough to retrieve books or other personal belongings.
“We’re getting on top of it,” she said.
The Child Development Center, which includes day-care service, is still open and the college is getting calls for more enrollments, Maddy said. The center is already used to “frequent cleaning” but the practice has been ramped up. College students who serve as Student Ambassadors may be asked to volunteer at the day-care center in lieu of their normal duties, provided they are healthy.
Simmons said prisons have closed their doors to visitors but college instructors are still welcome at the correctional facilities in Larned and Ellsworth.
The college also offers some courses at public high schools and that could pose problems. “We’ll see what our district partners do as they gear up next week.”
Some Continuing Technical Education classes such as welding will continue to meet in person, with new guidelines, when school resumes next week.
In spite of the changes taking place, Simmons said, “We’re not going to set the bar lower for quality of instruction.”
College officials hadn’t made an official announcement about this year’s graduation ceremonies before the meeting. But on Thursday the college posted its decision:
“We regret to share that Barton has decided the safest route for everybody is to cancel commencement this year, which was scheduled for May 8.”
Other events that were set for that day that will be canceled are the Honors Celebration, MLT Pinning, Nurse Pinning and EMS Cording.
Barton, like every other college or high school across the nation, is looking for creative alternatives, Maddy told the board Tuesday. “Yes, you will still get your degree,” Maddy said of students who complete the graduation requirements. But the form celebrations will take has not been determined.
“It’s a recipe that’s being written as we go,” Simmons said. According to Thursday’s update, the college is still looking at alternate ways to recognize the achievement of its graduates.
Personnel and EduKan
In action items, the trustees approved the EduKan audit and the hiring of Nancy Sawyer as an accounts receivable clerk on the Barton County campus.