Date: March 18, 2020
Time: 9:00am (MT)
RE: Northwest Tech Transition to Online – COVID-19 Response #3
In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly issued a directive closing public primary and secondary schools throughout the state of Kansas. As the situation continues to develop across the state, the time has arisen for the college to take the next preventative steps for those in our immediate vicinity. Effective today, Northwest Tech will move all classes online starting March 30, 2020, and for the duration of the semester.
While this was a difficult decision to reach, sometimes it helps to understand some of the considerations and background that brought us to this point:
- After delivering a survey to evaluate travel plans for students and employees, data indicated we have over 150 individuals traveling to or through areas heavily impacted by the COVID-19 virus.
- While there have currently been no cases disclosed in our immediate area, 32% of the college employees are at risk for health complications due to age and health concerns. With that many employees at risk, critical functions and operations of the college are placed in jeopardy.
- We are following recent recommendations by President Donald Trump and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly regarding social distancing. It is nearly impossible to exercise effective this recommendation on a campus that was designed for collaboration, interaction, and hands-on learning.
- Our on-campus dormitories are home to nearly 200 students at any given time. These students rely upon access to the cafeteria three times a day. Even with amended dining schedules and eating in shifts, we significantly increase the risk of broad transmission if even one student carried the virus.
NEW Schedule of Operations
- March 16 – March 27: Spring Break (No classes or instruction)
- March 23 – March 27: Employees work remotely (from home or on campus with permission)
- March 30: Online instruction begins, and courses will be available. Standard employee hours resume unless otherwise notified.
- We will remain ONLINE for the remainder of the semester. In order to accommodate skills labs, hands-on learning, clinicals, and shop time, we are exploring several options including internships, and extensions for clinicals, among other options. More information will be provided by your faculty members as decisions are made appropriate to each program.
Starting on Monday, March 30, 2020, students will be able to log into Moodle, Cengage, and other program-specific software in order to continue their coursework. Program faculty will be working to transition classes online over the next two weeks in preparation for this transition. We will be providing additional resources and training opportunities to faculty throughout the semester as needed. Faculty will be asked to reach out to students during the first week of online classes to provide information on their courses and to begin working with students on a plan to finish the semester. As an example, if employment opportunities or internships arise within a student’s field of study, we will work to provide credit for outcomes learned on the job.
Please pay close, and regular, attention to the student email accounts as it is the official means of communication for courses and from college officials.
The challenge of any technical college during unprecedented times like this lies in the ability to provide the hands-on training that students and employers expect of our programs and graduates. We will continue to do our best to deliver the quality of education Northwest Tech has delivered for the last 56 years. We look forward to seeing all of our second-year students head on to their next steps in industry and transfer institutions, and we are already excited to reconnect with returning students in the fall!
Academics and Grades
As we move online, it is critical students log in regularly to complete course work and submit assignments. We will still continue to issue grades based on student assignments and homework. Maintaining good grades remains as important online as it did in face-to-face courses to earn credits and complete degrees.
During the week of March 23 – 27, employees have the flexibility to work from home (or from the office as needed). Faculty will be expected to develop course content in preparation for the transition to online on March 30. Online and in-person resources will be available for faculty who need assistance with the creation of additional online course material. Employees who the CDC indicate are at-risk due to age, or medical necessity may contact their direct supervisor to request ongoing workplace modifications.
Upon returning to normal hours, employees will be asked to limit their movement around campus. To support this, we will suspend formal faculty and staff meetings for the time being and rely on other forms of communication including email and Moodle communications.
Following the recommendations of the CDC, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) has made the decision to cancel all spring competitions, effective immediately (March 16, 2020). Per their release:
“Spring competition includes all practices, regular season, postseason, and national championship play. Regarding eligibility for spring sports, no spring sport student-athlete who was enrolled at a member college in 2020 will be charged a year of participation. Along with the cancellation of competition, all on and off-campus recruiting for all sports will be halted until April 15 with further evaluation to be assessed at that point in time.
The NJCAA will explore the opportunity to expand allowable Letters of Intent for spring sports for both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years under the recommendation of the NJCAA Eligibility Committee*.
*The eligibility committee will meet this Thursday, March 19 to review potential Letters of Intent increases. This information will be provided to membership following the meeting.
The NJCAA will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as more information becomes available.”
Given the NJCAA decision, we encourage student-athletes to remain in regular contact with their coaches. It is also critical to maintain good grades in their classes, as NJCAA academic eligibility rules are still in effect regardless of competition cancelations. In short, students need to maintain good grades to continue to compete at Northwest Tech and/or at the next level of competition. We look forward to seeing student-athletes return to campus next fall to continue to grow and build the athletic legacy at Northwest Tech!
Given the CDC recommendation not to host any large public gatherings at this time, we have decided to cancel the in-person graduation ceremony scheduled for May 8. While we regret having to do so, we are already looking for alternative methods to celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of our Northwest Tech Mavericks. We will send out information as decisions are made.
Access to all dormitories is restricted, and students will not be allowed to move back into campus housing. We will begin working immediately with students currently in the dorms to develop a plan to transition off-campus and safely back home. In the meantime, limited meal services have been arranged with the cafeteria for those currently in the dorms. Housing staff will be in contact with further guidance.
- Students who are currently off-campus, who need access to their dorms, personal belongings, etc. will need to contact the Dean of Student Advancement, Jason Showalter, via email at email@example.com to request access.
- In cases where access is not needed immediately (i.e. for medications, etc.) a check-out form will be emailed soon to schedule a time to check out of campus housing.
- Check-out will be handled on an individual, and scheduled, case-by-case basis. We will work to accommodate the requests as safely as we can.
- We request your patience as we will be assisting nearly 200 students while working to maintain a safe and organized process.
In the coming weeks, our staff will begin processing a room and board refund for the remainder of the semester (refund date starting March 23) for students who are no longer in housing. If the student has a balance on their account, a credit in the amount of the refund will be issued to the account, and the bill reduced accordingly.
Gove County Location
Students attending the Gove County location in Quinter will follow the same guidelines as the campus in Goodland with courses moving online beginning March 30. We will work through program faculty to create the best alternative possible to continue the learning opportunities we have created at this location.
Mental Health Counseling
Northwest Tech is fortunate to be able to continue the counseling services offered through our partnership with Goodland Regional Medical Center. Students needing to continue or begin counseling services will have the ability to schedule counseling sessions through live virtual sessions with our campus counselor. More information will be provided as soon as the live virtual counseling sessions are made available. Watch your student email for more information.
Campus Events & Community Meetings
Citing recommendations by the CDC as well as state and local health organizations, all on-campus events will be canceled until further notice. This includes college recruitment events as well as events hosted by outside organizations within campus facilities. While we greatly appreciate and encourage community engagement, for the safety of all involved, this will include meetings and lunches hosted on campus by local civic organizations in our dining facility.
Campus Tours Move Virtually
We recognize that prospective students have a strong desire to see our campus as they work to make their college selection decisions. Although we will not host any face-to-face campus tours for the foreseeable future, we will offer virtual tours, during which one of our admissions representatives will utilize FaceTime or Google Hangouts to walk you around campus from the comfort of your own home. During these tours, we will show you campus facilities and classrooms, and introduce you to the faculty and staff members who will be teaching your courses and assisting you in becoming a Northwest Tech Maverick. If you are interested in taking a virtual tour, contact our admissions office at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our campus tour request form on our website.
Until further notice, the Keirns Fitness Center and Mills Building will remain closed to anyone except Northwest Tech personnel who office in the buildings.
While this has been a challenging time for Northwest Tech students, staff, and faculty, I have every bit of confidence that our employees will rise to the challenge and deliver the best educational opportunities available given the current situation. It is in moments like these when division comes so easily, that we must make every effort to come together. To be different. To be Mavericks.
In the meantime, be smart, work hard, and do the right thing!
Quarantine Guidance from KDHE: https://khap2.kdhe.state.ks.us/NewsRelease/PDFs/3-15-20%20Quarantine%20recommendations%20FINAL.pdf
Kansas Department of Health and Environment - COVID-19 Resources: https://govstatus.egov.com/coronavirus
NJCAA COVID-19 website: https://www.njcaa.org/covid19
KJCCC Conference website: https://www.kjccc.org/landing/index
CDC Risk Factors for Employees: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html