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Barton prepares for campus reopening

Faculty orientation at Barton Community College will start Monday, and students are already starting to return, college officials said. The first day of classes on campus will be Aug. 12.

Barton has had students living on campus continuously since March, Vice President of Administration Mark Dean said.

“Many of those students could not go home due to travel restrictions. New students have been arriving at various times over the summer and those that have been from KDHE-restricted states/countries have been quarantined for 14 days per the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Barton County Health Department.”

KDHE amended its travel quarantine list on Tuesday.

Individuals needing to quarantine for 14 days include visitors and Kansans who have traveled to:

• Florida on or after June 29. 

• Arizona between June 17 – July 27. 

• Been on a cruise ship or river cruise on or after March 15. 

• International travel to Bahrain or French Guiana July 14 – July 26.

• International travel on or after July 14 to countries with a CDC Level 3 Travel Health Notice, including China, Iran, European Schengen area, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Brazil. International travelers must follow CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidance and protocols. 

The students under quarantine are staying in a separate residence hall, but not all international or out-of-state students are under quarantine.

Movie-in day for on-campus housing is Aug. 8.

“We had students that came early that didn’t need to be here early,” Dean told college trustees on Tuesday. “Those who come from Arizona (on July 28 or later) don’t have to quarantine.” But, “everything changes daily,” Dean said. “It affects the college and it affects the students. None of us can help that.”

Mike Johnson, chairman of Barton’s Board of Trustees, pointed out the pitfalls of the ever-changing pandemic environment. If Texas or some other state in now added to the restricted list, a student who comes here could be in quarantine after classes start. 

Barton has a “COVID team” that works closely with the Barton County Health Department and is following its guidelines and recommendations. The team includes Campus Nurse Kathy Brock. “Our COVID team meets every week for a couple of hours – that’s the official meeting but we meet every day,” he said.

Quarantined students have box meals delivered to a common area three times a day, and then they go back to their rooms.

When classes start, precautions will include assigned seating in classrooms “in case we have to do tracing,” Vice President Elaine Simmons said. “Our faculty will have masks and shields.”

Furniture will be rearranged so students can maintain social distancing in the classroom. But in classrooms, hallways and dorms, a lot of the responsibility falls on the students.

“We are doing all we can do to keep our students safe,” said Mary Foley, executive director of workforce training and economic development. The number of students in the classroom is basically cut in half, Foley said last week at a Kiwanis meeting where she was the guest speaker. “Masks are required in the classroom unless you can keep social distance.”

With a cap on the number of face-to-face spaces available, remote learning will be another option.

Foley noted there will be hand sanitizing stations as well.

Simmons said faculty are also trying to create a virtual lab, but Foley said some classes, such as auto mechanics, are on hold.

“It’s hard to teach welding online,” Foley said.

“I can pretty much guarantee we’re going to have cases on all of our campuses,” Dean predicted. However, the college will need to be careful not to release personal health information when that situation arises.