The plan for a return to campus for employees and students of Arizona Western College has come together after a long uncertain summer.
AWC President Dr. Daniel Corr said he has been working and communicating with faculty since March to develop a return-to-normal transition, even as the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic unfold for the hub of higher education in southwestern Arizona.
"It seemed like throughout the late spring into summer we have just been in constant reconsideration mode," said Dr. Corr. Discussion led to two grounding principles that Dr. Corr explained on KAWC's Arizona Edition.
The first principle is to help students to complete their educational goals. The second is to keep faculty, students and the community safe.
Corr says AWC is coming off a successful end of the year in May, despite COVID-19 restrictions. Students had a successful completion rate for the spring semester"identical to the year before, which was our highest rate ever," Corr says.
For the upcoming fall semester, students will have the option of returning to the classroom. AWC will offer hybrid learning classes via Zoom as well as a completely online class experience. For skilled based classes like welding, only nine students to one instructor will be in a classroom at any one time.
But the virus has taken a toll on the music program. Some AWC music classes and programs, particularly those using wind instruments, like the orchestra, have been delayed at the moment. The college is looking into large conference rooms to accommodate students and maintain social distance.
One thing students will have to get used to is avoiding what are called "sticky spaces". Dr. Corr and AWC have encouraged students in the past to use those areas, like Starbucks, study rooms, and shaded areas on campus where students congregate and collaborate. That will change in the fall semester.
"We have eliminated sticky spaces and right down to removing furniture that has been grouped together where students could hang out," Dr. Corr explained. Areas like the Library and Student Success Center will be open but study rooms will be closed.
Aug. 3 saw the return to campus for many of the college's employees. It will follow modified staffing patterns by the department, along with new safety protocols and social distancing requirements.
"For many AWC Employees, it will be for the first time [they] set foot on campus since March 13, when we moved everything from a distance," said Dr. Corr.
While some staff will continue to work from home, Corr says no full-time employees have been laid off since the pandemic began, though some have changed departments.
"I have made the commitment to all full-time employees of the college that we will be making every effort to maintain their employment at the college," said Dr. Corr.
The college has felt the economic impact of the coronavirus. Enrollment is down 22 percent this year according to Dr. Corr.
"That would be just over $1 million in projected revenue that we will not receive that one semester alone." That's not just from enrollment it also comes from a decline in student housing and the cancellation of events and conferences.
Corr says the college has some financial reserves to handle the loss in revenue this year, but if the drop continues next year the college will face tough choices.
As for masks? They are required on campus for students and employees.
"If you are in the presence of someone else inside or outside you have to have a mask on," he said.
Corr says those walking alone on campus or in the classroom alone don't have to wear face coverings. AWC is also asking any students or employees to be transparent about their health with the college.