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Local community colleges prepare for new school year with Covid

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 10:04 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - With the academic year rapidly approaching, schools have decisions to make about their Covid protocol.

WTAP checked in with local community colleges about their plans.

West Virginia University at Parkersburg aka WVUP and Washington State Community College aka WSCC may look pretty empty now but it won’t be the case for long.

It’s something they’ve been preparing for over the summer.

WSCC President Dr. Vicky Wood said, “Over the summer we’ve actually renovated classrooms so that we could create larger spaces for students so that we can social distance a little easier.”

While WSCC is building bigger rooms, WVUP is also playing with space, turning untraditional areas like the theater into classrooms.

Both are also installing new technology to ease remote learning.

WVUP President Chris Gilmer explained the Zoom rooms they’ve been “busily building” this summer, “Faculty will be teaching in this room but students all throughout our service area - for that year, some of our national programs, and students in many other states as well will be able to participate fully in class, using the Zoom and blackboard and other learning technologies.”

While WVUP is equipped with virtual learning capabilities, Gilmer says he’s not sure yet what format classes will be in.

“We’re still figuring out if we will be at full capacity every student face to face in every class every day or if some of their classes might be a hybrid class where portions of them will be online but we are anticipating that every class will have the option to meet face to face.”

Wood says almost all of WSCC courses will have an online component in case students can’t come to class.

WSCC class formats will include in-person learning, online learning, hybrid learning, and a new kind.

Wood elaborated, “..., and we have this new option called high-flex, which a student is registering for a face to face class yet the faculty is in a high tech classroom, where they will be delivering their lecture virtually as well as in the classroom.”

Both college presidents say they are confident that most of their classes will be able to accommodate for social distancing.

When it comes to masks, both encourage them.

Gilmer said, “We strongly recommend and ask people, particularly the unvaccinated to wear masks on our campuses but at the moment we don’t have the authority to mandate that.”

When it comes to vaccination rate among staff and students, neither keep record.

Wood said, “We have not formally asked our employees or students to report if they are vaccinated are not. We’re not going to do that. We’re just simply encouraging it.”

Gilmer points to privacy as his reasoning for not keeping track. He also states that the school has made free vaccinations available for a year.

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