NORFOLK, Neb. – Northeast Community College is planning a return to regular college operations beginning with the Fall 2021 academic semester.
Similar to most colleges and universities, Northeast was forced to shift instructional methods in March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to disrupt everyday life across the world. Within a week, faculty worked to adjust the format of their courses in the context of community mitigation strategies, such as asynchronous and on-line learning, social distancing, enhanced sanitization, and the avoidance of large groups. Campuses were initially closed with a number of offices operating remotely for the safety and health of students and employees. In addition, the College’s career and technical education classes have been held in socially distanced, face-to-face settings with other classes conducted in a virtual or remote environment.
Deans and instructors are currently developing Fall 2021 academic schedules for classes and delivery options with the intent of resuming to full-college operations.
“This includes face-to-face classes and events, as well as returning to 100% capacity in residence halls,” said Dr. Leah Barrett, president. “Face-to-face classes will again be the primary instructional delivery method for courses, balanced with instructional delivery options such as online, hybrid/online, hybrid/virtual and virtual classes. This will provide flexibility for student schedules as appropriate.”
Northeast’s COVID-19 Recovery Team, formed last spring, continues to meet and is providing guidance for the next academic year based, in part, on the College’s COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures and any Directed Health Measures that will be in place in the fall. Barrett said it is important to note that this may change based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, Directed Health Measures, or if positive case numbers at the College should change.
Barrett said face masks will continue to be required at all Northeast locations – on campuses in Norfolk, O’Neill, South Sioux City, and West Point, and in regional offices in Ainsworth and Hartington. Also beginning in the fall, 100% capacity will be allowed with social distancing encouraged. In addition, sanitization and disinfecting protocols for instructional and college spaces will remain in place.
Dr. Michele Gill, vice president of Educational Services, said a survey of students that was administered at the end of the Fall 2020 term asked a variety of questions - from preferred course delivery to what went well to what could be improved upon to their overall experience during the fall term. She said a majority of students surveyed indicated they prefer in-person classes.
One student said they had a difficult time learning remotely.
“If I had to take the next class that follows, I don’t think I would do well in it. Virtual classes with actual instruction was not bad, but I prefer face-to-face over any other presentation on any day.”
Another student complemented faculty instruction, calling it “smooth sailing.”
“I know I definitely wanted to be in person and interacting with people because I have felt like I have been locked in my house for months now, but it was bearable,” the student said. “My teachers in my Zoom courses were always there checking in on us and making me smile. It was way better than I had originally anticipated … .”
“There are many great comments to read and learn from the 300-plus students who completed the survey,” Gill said. “The comments give us an opportunity to engage and work on ways to improve and glean positives from the student experience.”
Residence Life staff are prepared to fill on-campus housing facilities with students in Norfolk for the 2021-22 academic year. Residence Life will open all rooms for regular capacity to begin the fall semester. Contracts have already been distributed to current residents to reserve their room for next year, and will be distributed to new students who have applied for housing for the Fall 2021 semester in April. Students may still apply for housing for fall by downloading the application at northeast.edu/Campus-Housing.
Barrett said Northeast employees and students have done a great job over the past year, but now it is time to look ahead. She said academic excellence and the health and safety of the College community will be at the forefront in moving forward.
“The end of the pandemic is on the horizon and our post-pandemic work is coming into focus as we plan for the next academic year. Northeast is a remarkable college in remarkable times. The employees have displayed an incredible commitment to student success as they have responded and adjusted to ensuring a great student experience. The work we are now undertaking is the basis of a new starting point in opening the door to better days ahead.”
Fall classes at Northeast Community College begin Aug. 23.