NORFOLK, Neb. – Northeast Community College is ready to begin to implement strategies that will allow increased access to facilities and services. The College has been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty and students concluded the spring semester using alternative delivery methods of instruction while many employees have been working remotely over the past three months.
Leah Barrett, president, said Northeast will begin welcoming more employees and the public back to its main campus in Norfolk and extended campus operations in O’Neill, South Sioux City and West Point, and regional offices in Ainsworth and Hartington, beginning Wednesday, June 17.
“Members of the Northeast COVID-19 Recovery Team have been working diligently to create a three-phased business continuity plan that features guiding procedures that will allow us to begin to incrementally reopen our campuses. These procedures consider the health and safety of our faculty and staff, our students and the general public as we continue to confront this health crisis in the months to come,” Barrett said. “In order to accomplish the goals in the plan, it will take commitment and cooperation by everyone – similar in the way we have come together to continue to operate Northeast since the pandemic impacted our lives in March.”
Beginning June 17, limited operations will be offered in the College Welcome Center, the Lifelong Learning Center, and the Library/Resource Center/Hawks Shop on the Norfolk campus and at the extended campuses and regional offices. All other buildings will remain locked to the general public, except for those who may have instruction on-campus during the summer.
The fall semester at Northeast will begin a week earlier than originally scheduled. The August 17, start will allow the semester to end at Thanksgiving and is designed to reduce the risk of any health hazards associated with COVID-19 due to travel.
Barrett said the business continuity plan has been developed to provide students, faculty, supervisors and staff directions necessary to operate the College during Phase II.
“Over the past month, Northeast has been functioning under Phase I to prepare college facilities and develop procedures and processes to allow more people on campus.Under Phase II, operation protocols will focus on a limited number of employees and students on campus. Phase III will not likely be instituted until there is a vaccine and widespread treatments,” she said.
Barrett said Northeast Community College will be taking a proactive approach through a number of steps and processes to reopen. Supervisors are to work with their departments to manage their staff who will return to their offices. Employees will be allowed to continue to work remotely based on underlying health issues or other high-risk factors. Social distancing expectations will be in effect based on the local public health district Directed Health Measure in place at each Northeast location.
In addition, signage, extra hand sanitization stations, and plexiglass barriers for front line staff have been installed in the buildings that will open beginning next week. The wearing of face masks is encouraged when working with members of the public or if social distancing is not possible.
Teaching and learning will be divided among on-campus classes, scheduled distance learning classes (synchronous virtual learning) and online instruction. On-campus classes will abide by 10 participants or 25% occupancy of a room (whichever is higher) while maintaining social distancing of six feet between participants.
For the fall term, Northeast residence life facilities on the Norfolk campus will house less students than normal and spaces have been reserved in the student apartment buildings as isolation and quarantine areas for students who may become COVID-19 symptomatic.
Furthermore, events may be scheduled at each Northeast campus based on the local Directed Health Measure with no more than 10 individuals or no more than 25% of the normal occupancy of space (whichever is higher). And, the Athletic Department will continue to work closely with the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference and the National Junior College Athletic Association to determine plans for intercollegiate athletic practices and competitions.
Barrett said Northeast Community College’s business continuity plan has been crafted with the best resources and information available and is based on guidance from local and regional health partners.
“As changes are made to the Directed Health Measures that affect these procedures, information will be shared with the college community. Until that time comes, we will have to continue to be nimble and flexible moving forward as we may never really know what COVID-19 has in store for us next.”