At a board meeting on Monday, May 18, Texarkana College Trustees reviewed recommended protocols for employees to return to work and for phased-in campus reopening following the mandated COVID-19 closure. TC President Dr. Jason Smith told Trustees that although plans are in place to begin Phase I on May 26, the plans will remain tentative based on the availability of personal protective equipment and supplies necessary to maintain a safe and sanitary environment according to local and state guidelines.
“Strict procedures will be followed to ensure the safety and protection of everyone at Texarkana College,” Smith said. “Phase I will begin on May 26 and will continue through June 8, 2020. During this time, TC will operate with limited personnel not exceeding 25% of building capacity and required staggered shifts. A mandatory drive-through health screening station serviced by a Certified Nurse Aide will be set up for employees as they enter the campus parking lot. After clearance, employees will be issued security wristbands for building entrance. In addition, stringent campus-wide sanitization and cleaning procedures have been established and we have installed plexiglass screens to provide added security for employees who work in open access areas.”
Smith said the campus will remain closed to students and public during Phase I (with the exception of the TC Bookstore textbook curbside pick-up). However, online access will remain open to vital TC functions including registration for summer and fall semesters, virtual meetings with academic advisors, and support from financial aid specialists.
“Online registration is open for Summer II and Fall semesters, and all TC employees are accessible by phone or virtual meetings during this time,” said Smith. “Although TC courses for the first summer session will remain entirely online, we will make informed decisions about the second summer session and fall semester as we monitor recommendations from local and state authorities.”
To gain pertinent and timely information about the continued threat of COVID 19 on campus operations, Smith said TC officials remain in daily contact with state and local authorities.
“I participate in bi-weekly discussions with presidents from peer institutions across the state through conference calls by the Texas Association of Community Colleges,” Smith said. “We are in a completely uncharted territory, and there is no clear indication of what the right answer for the fall semester is. Community colleges across the state of Texas are evaluating several models of reopening in the fall. Some community colleges will come back in person, some remote, some only hybrid. College administrators across the state are making choices based on their situations and on what is the best option for their region.”
Smith said TC administration is hoping to return to a regular fall schedule of mixed online and face to face course instruction.
“As the fall semester start date draws nearer, we will assess the circumstances and continue to abide by local and state guidelines,” Smith said. “TC is taking every precaution to maintain a safe, sanitary work and learning environment for students, faculty and staff.”
Phase I protocols include the opening of only four campus buildings: Nelson Administration Building, Palmer Memorial Library and Academic Commons Building (Testing Center, Student Support Services, etc.), Truman Arnold Student Center (TC Bookstore), and Facilities Services. Students will be able to pick up textbooks curbside from the TC Bookstore by making appointments.
The following list includes comprehensive campus-wide protocols for reopening:
· Anyone entering a campus building must wear a wristband at all times indicating clearance through the health screening checkpoint.
· The hands-free hand sanitizer station must be used upon entry.
· Employees will maintain six feet of separation, which will be reinforced through signs, posters, and markings on the floor.
· Employees will be required to wear masks in all common areas and any time the 6-foot separation barrier cannot be maintained. Each employee will be provided with a limited number of disposable face masks and a set of reusable cloth masks upon return to work.
· Employees are responsible for washing and sanitizing their reusable masks after each use, for the safety of themselves and others.
· Staggered shifts will be scheduled for each department, including start times and breaks.
· Each department will develop virtual work policies.
· All meetings will continue to be held virtually, with limited or no in-person meetings.
· Employees should not share equipment, computers, etc. When it is absolutely necessary (i.e. copy machine), gloves must be worn.
· TC will ensure that employees have access to personal protective equipment such as masks, wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
· Facilities Services will provide frequent cleaning of high-touch areas for all occupied buildings.
· Custodian schedules will be adapted for cleaning/disinfecting of each occupied building both pre-occupancy and post-occupancy each day.
· Facilities Services will maintain hand sanitizer stations around campus.
· The frequency of replacing HVAC filters will be increased.
Communication, Education & Training for Employees:
· Employees will be trained on all protocols, including hand washing, hygiene, and how to use of personal protective equipment.
· Posters will be placed around campus communicating general information on all of the safety protocols.
· Regular updates will be sent to employees using multiple communication channels.
· During the initial opening week of each phase, the President and Vice Presidents will meet daily with their direct reports to answer questions and debrief.