Henry Ford once said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.” The COVID-19 pandemic may have challenged us, but it has not distracted us from our vision or our strategic goals. BPCC continues to strive to be America’s premier two-year college committed to excellence in service to our students and support for our faculty and staff. Despite the challenges this spring, a record number of students graduated from BPCC in May. Now, we are looking into the future with a laser-focus to ensure that our students continue their studies in a safe, healthy environment and that they stay on pace through completion. And to an increasing degree, graduating seniors and others attending four-year universities are taking another look at continuing their studies at BPCC this fall.
The COVID-19 pandemic has defined our lives by phases, with Phase I of the Open Safely LA plan currently being implemented. Summer courses at BPCC began on May 12 and additional terms will launch in June and July. In adherence to safety guidelines and protocols, BPCC decided to offer studies online for the summer and we have seen a 5% increase in enrollment compared to last summer. The beginning of Phase II will permit colleges and universities to reopen and BPCC is preparing for the fall 2020 semester with a plan for flexibility that ensures we continue to allow the health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff to drive the decision-making process.
In early June, Governor Edwards will determine if Louisiana is ready to enter Phase II; for fall 2020, BPCC’s leadership has developed a proactive plan to return essential faculty, staff, and administrators to a campus that is thoroughly sanitized. The College is also partnering with a healthcare provider to help coordinate health screenings and to provide on-site tele-health for employees. Returning and new students will find that BPCC has taken every precaution, followed the guidelines of the CDC, and students can have confidence that their college is a healthy, safe, secure, and caring learning environment.
On the instructional front, implementation of the Phase II plan will involve courses that are offered via online, on campus, and hybrid approaches. Courses will be delivered in ways that maintain social distancing while focusing on competency development, enriched learning experiences, and quality outcomes. Students at BPCC this fall will find that our plan for providing instruction is tri-fold:
Courses will be delivered in a variety of ways:
Many courses will be available via instruction that takes place entirely online;
Other courses will be delivered through a hybrid approach which means that the instruction is delivered face-to-face and online;
Some hybrid courses will be online dominant while others will see instruction delivered on campus; the development of course and program outcomes will determine the modality used by faculty members.
Courses with hands-on components delivered on campus will follow strict health and safety guidelines.
Being attuned to the needs of our communities is critical, and to that end, we are providing opportunities for learning that are responsive to the needs of our students while also understanding that some of our students, faculty, and staff will remain vulnerable to this coronavirus. The commitment to multi-modal delivery of instruction will provide us with the flexibility needed to ensure a safe environment for those unique classes in which faculty and students require access to specialized equipment and laboratories. We understand that there must be this type of flexibility in our offerings to accommodate all our students, and we are committed to high-quality instruction in a variety of ways while remaining committed to our mission to provide caring learning environments for all in our care.
Implementation of Phase II will also require excellence in developing operational processes that embrace new safety and sanitation standards and serve to protect those who come to our campus. Our return to campus under Phase II will coincide with the attainment of the following expectations:
Having adequate PPE supplies for employees and students on campus;
Identifying the number of essential personnel who will return and on what schedule;
Planning for areas that may be closed or partially re-opened to maintain social distancing;
Identifying essential services to be re-established at specified buildings and on specified floors;
Identifying key access points and the flow of traffic in buildings (and on specific floors);
Identifying capacity for classrooms and labs that permit the maintenance of social distancing guidelines; and
Providing professional development and training related to safety and sanitation protocols.
Planning is an essential part of meeting these expectations. Therefore, we have established a taskforce whose mission is to outline the requirements for returning to the campus and for implementing the approved protocols once Phase II begins. Members of the team include, but are not limited to, leadership from the Physical Plant, Purchasing, Student Services, Computer Services, Public Relations, Institutional Effectiveness Initiatives, and Innovative Learning offices. An important element of implementing Phase II is that departmental supervisors will present a plan to the appropriate Vice Chancellor that identifies support staff and administrators who are necessary to provide essential services on campus. It is understood that Phase II will continue to see a significant amount of remote work and that this will allow us to maintain operations with everyone’s safety as a priority.
With COVID-19 continuing to be a threat to our people, making decisions as to how to proceed has been challenging for higher education leadership. However, BPCC has developed concrete solutions for a successful fall 2020 semester. It is important that our students have clarity on what they can expect from BPCC this fall and we want students to know that the way we will operate, though not ideal, is designed with them and their academic goals in mind. Our plans for Phase II may limit some of the traditional engagement with students—an engagement that gives us energy and is a key element of BPCC culture—but our faculty will be practicing a high level of engagement through the remote learning environments they create for their courses.
Health and safety guidelines in place will provide for monitored access of hands-on learning opportunities for some classes on campus as well. But whether it is online or on-campus, this fall, BPCC will keep students on pace to complete their studies. For those who might otherwise leave home to attend a four-year university but wonder if this is the right time… consider attending BPCC in the fall. We will take great care of you and keep you on pace as well. We see the obstacles before us but we also remain focused on our goals—world class service to our students and commitment to supporting our faculty and staff who innovate solutions every day with students in mind.
Dr. Rick Bateman | Chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College.