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Fall schedule set for Iowa Central

Changes include number of student housing slots

Daily Freeman-Journalr photo by Chad Thompson With fall semester classes beginning Aug. 25, Iowa Central is focusing on being flexible with changes surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa Central President Dan Kinney said.

Flexibility is going to be the theme of the fall semester at Iowa Central Community College.

Flexibility has become the new normal in the time of COVID-19.

When the coronavirus hit Iowa in the early spring, Iowa Central President Dan Kinney made the decision to close campus and move all courses online to virtual classes.

“I think we did a heck of a job on March 13 when this thing went south,” Kinney said. “Our faculty and staff were able to get off campus, get to remote working bringing their services and classes up in no time flat.”

But as soon as the college’s leadership figured out how to finish out the spring semester, their thoughts turned to what to do with the fall semester, knowing that COVID-19 isn’t going away any time soon.

Kinney, along with the rest of the Iowa Central administration, have been working since that time, taking guidance from the Centers for Dsease Control and Prevention, federal and state departments of education, state and county health departments, American College Health Association, the Global Center for Health Security and the college’s board of directors.

“Everything we do is around for the safety of our employees, students and visitors,” Kinney said.

Students, staff and visitors will be asked to observe any safety practices when they enter campus buildings, including using social distancing and handwashing and sanitizing stations. Masks will be encouraged, but are not required.

“We’re trying to keep this environment as safe as we can,” Kinney said.

There will be no international travel for any staff member or student group this fall, and in-state and out-of-state business travel has been restricted to absolutely necessary trips only.

The fall semester classes will begin on Aug. 25, and finals will conclude the third week of December. Though that is the plan right now, Kinney acknowledges that it’s subject to change at any time.

“The big thing that we’re pushing is flexibility,” Kinney said. “What people have got to understand is these things are going to change — something new happens, some new policy comes out, new procedures or something new is known about COVID-19.”

For the semester’s classes, there’s going to be a mix of virtual Zoom-type courses like in the spring and some face-to-face classes.

“Our main goal behind that was to provide a course delivery method that will help any student feel safe and comfortable completing their degree, completing their goals with us,” Kinney said.

Face-to-face class sizes will be smaller, the president said, to facilitate social distancing inside classrooms and allowing students to sit six feet away from each other.

Rather than having a Monday/Wednesday/Friday and a Tuesday/Thursday class schedule, Iowa Central will move to a Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday schedule, leaving Fridays open for lab classes and one-on-one meeting times with instructors. Instead of meeting in an instructor’s office during office hours, students will meet with them in empty classrooms to be able to space out more.

“We’re going to try to set this up as normal as we can,” Kinney said. “I call it the ‘new normal’ — social distancing, but still giving them that collegiate environment to the best ability we can do here at Iowa Central and providing them with the best feeling of safety.”

Kinney said the college already has a plan in place in case the situation surrounding COVID-19 escalates again.

“We are ready and prepared so if a second spike happens and we have to send students away, that we’ll get straight to online,” he said.

Student housing won’t be as full this fall, either. There will be fewer students living in the on-campus housing, and the campus cafeteria will only be open to students living in campus housing.

Students will have key fobs or student ID cards to scan and enter the buildings, but campus visitors will have to go through a screening check point to make sure they are not exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms.

“If we do have a positive case and it’s identified, we’ll be working very closely with the local public health department to do the contact tracing,” Kinney said. “We’re asking students and staff, if they’re sick to stay home. Stay home, get tested, but don’t come in if you’re showing any symptoms.”

If a student living in campus housing tests positive for the virus, the college has set aside space in the dorms for ill students to quarantine in if they need it. If a student lives nearby and wants to go home while they quarantine, they’re welcome to, Kinney said. But many of the college’s students are from several states away, and even from out of the country.

As for sports, Kinney said that fall athletics are set to move forward as of now, with some adjustments to season schedules. Because of the close contact required for wrestling, that sport’s season won’t begin until at least January.

Kinney feels it is important to help the college’s students meet their educational goals, even with the challenges of a global pandemic.

“We’re going to try to give these students the best college experience we can in the times that we face,” he said.

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