Social distancing measures, Plexiglas dividers and additional hand sanitizing stations will be a few noticeable differences across the Blinn College District as a phased return of campus operations begins June 15.
Chancellor Mary Hensley announced the upcoming plans in an email to faculty and staff Tuesday night. Certain personnel will return to campus in three phases this summer; students are expected back as scheduled on Aug. 24. All May minimester and summer courses still will be conducted online as previously announced.
Since March, all personnel have worked remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic with limited exceptions, including some police and security presence, said Director of Communications, Media Relations and Marketing Richard Bray via email on Wednesday.
The primary goal throughout the return process, Bray said, is to provide students with high-quality educational services they need while simultaneously safeguarding the health of students and employees.
“I would just want to emphasize that this plan remains fluid and we will continue to make adjustments in the weeks ahead,” he said. “However, the one thing that remains constant is our top priority to provide a safe, healthy environment for our students and employees.”
Hensley said in her message to faculty and staff that the college will work with local health officials throughout each step of the process and ensure that it is safe to proceed to the following phases.
Phase one will ask key personnel who are needed to initiate essential functions related to resuming in person work to return to campus, Hensley said in her message. During this phase, in-person campus services will still be offered remotely. Phase two is scheduled to start July 20. It will bring in more employees but will not exceed half of the full-time employees in any given area. Limited on-campus resources will be offered by appointment only. Phase three begins Aug. 17 and will mean more in-person employees and additional on campus services.
All phase dates are tentative. Bray said there is a possibility that phases could be postponed, but it is unlikely that any will be moved up.
Hensley’s message said supervisors will recommend the positions that will be included in each phase based upon the college’s business needs. Supervisors will submit the names of individuals who can fill roles that they identified as necessary to their vice chancellor and the human resources department. Bray said personnel who will return during each phase will be identified based on “the health and safety of our campus community and the college’s business needs.”
If employees are told to return to campus but have a health concern, Hensley encourages them to reach out to their human resources liaison since “no employee will be required to work on site if they have valid health concerns” during the earliest phases of Blinn’s return to campus operations.
Classes in the fall will be smaller, Hensley said, to comply with 6-foot social distancing guidelines. No classroom can have more than one person per 36 square feet to meet this regulation.
Blinn is also shifting from having mostly 16-week courses to favoring eight- and four-week classes. Twenty percent to 25% of classes this fall will be 16 weeks long, opposed to the typical 95%, Bray said. Courses are being reformatted to fit the shorter terms, Bray said, to prepare for the event that the college is forced to return to online-only formats.
Blended, online and in-person classes will be offered in the fall, with a focus on online and blended course work, Hensley said. All classes with face-to-face interactions will have online instruction synchronously. Blended and face-to-face classes will require students to rotate time spent in the classroom and virtually.
All final exams will be conducted remotely, unless students have accommodations through disability services or have career and technical education and health sciences courses.
Before returning to classes this fall, Blinn will require employees and students to self-certify that they have not been COVID-19 positive in the past 14 days, do not have any symptoms of the virus and have not been in contact with anyone who has tested positive.
If a student or faculty member tests positive, they eventually can return to campus once they test negative and when health officials say it is safe, Hensley’s message said.
Employees and students are all strongly encouraged to wear face coverings during the fall semester. Other safety precautions around campus will include Plexiglas dividers at workstations and food service areas, advanced cleaning protocols and limited occupancy in restrooms and elevators.
Hensley said in her email that planning continues to evolve as information is gathered.
“Blinn’s success always has relied on our ability to work as a team,” Hensley said in the message. “We are in this together and will come out of this even stronger.”
To read Hensley’s full email, visit blinn.edu/alert/coronavirus-update-may-19.html.