Eastern Arizona College is welcoming students back this fall, but things won’t be quite the same thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When classes start on August 24 with social distancing in place, the college will have new safety guidelines and offer new learning options in its “Mask Up, Monsters!” campaign.
Students will be strongly encouraged, and instructors will be required, to wear face masks. Students will also be strongly encouraged to stay six feet apart, wash their hands regularly and commit to a daily low-tech well check.
In a daily low-tech well check, students will be asked to answer three questions: Do they feel sick? Do they have a fever? Have they been around someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or asked to quarantine by a health professional? Students who answer yes to any of these will be advised to stay home.
“It will be our collective responsibility to help keep the campus safe,” EAC President Todd Haynie said in a news release.
“We’ve had a task force in place since the coronavirus pandemic hit in March,” said EAC Director of Marketing and Public Relations Kris McBride. “We’ve been meeting on a weekly basis to discuss plans to safely return students back to campus. We want our students to continue achieving their educational goals and we also want to preserve safety, and we’ve found this is the best way.”
Students can also choose how they’ll attend class this fall; in-person, blended (in-person and online), live remote, Web and dual enrollment. In live remote classes, an instructor will teach via Zoom or similar tools; a Web course is completely online with no live instruction.
Tuition is the same for each option, with one exception. Online and in-person classes cost the same for Arizona residents. For out-of-state or international students taking online classes there’s an additional $50 per credit.
McBride was unsure last week how many students have signed up for each option.
“I don’t have that number, and we probably won’t have it for a few more weeks because students may drop and add. I do know that our overall registration numbers are looking really good; we’re pretty close to normal right now.”
There will be sanitizing supplies in every classroom and enhanced cleaning by EAC maintenance staff. Students are expected to wipe down their desks and chairs at the end of each class.
Depending on the course of COVID-19, the college might go back to remote learning at any time.
As another safety measure, the college will hold classes remotely after Thanksgiving break.
“We’re just thinking that the students go home during the break,” said McBride. “For the start of the semester we’re welcoming students back with all different types of learning, but we want to keep the campus safe after Thanksgiving.
“To do that we’re going to keep the remainder of the semester remote. There may be some instances where students need to come back for labs, but right now our plan is to not have students come back after the holiday.
Occupancy will be limited in EAC dorms, with one student to a room unless the student asks for a roommate.
“If a student has someone they request to be housed with, we’ll do our best to accommodate their request. Otherwise we’re planning on single occupancy as much as possible,” said Dean of Students Gary Sorenson.
“Right now I think we have enough students placed in the residence halls that space won’t be a problem. The problem is if we have 20 or 30 students applying for housing and they want to stay in a dorm, they’ll have to be on a waiting list or find off-campus housing,” said Sorenson.
Isolation and quarantine protocols will be in place for any campus resident with COVID-19 symptoms.
EAC’s new dining program will offer three cafeteria-style meals a day Monday through Friday, with brunch and deli services on weekends. Students can also buy items from Gila Hank’s Deli. Fewer seats will be available and floor markings will promote social distancing.
“We feel we have the guidelines in place to move forward,” said McBride.