CHEYENNE – Laramie County Community College isn’t ready to unveil the specifics of its fall reopening plan yet, but it will include some in-person classes, President Joe Schaffer said Wednesday evening.
“We plan to have instructional activities on campus this fall. We’ve tried to prioritize where those will be and what they will look like,” Shaffer said to the LCCC Board of Trustees at a virtual meeting, noting college officials are still finalizing phase two of its Return to Business plan, which starts Aug. 15.
The college shut down its campus and transitioned to remote learning in March, as part of a nationwide effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Phase one of the reopening plan, which kept learning remote during the summer semester, started earlier this month.
LCCC is set to release the finalized phase two plan Friday.
“Those courses that need face-to-face activity in order to effectively deliver them (will be in person),” he said.
That includes, “many of our trades, tech programs, some of our equine programs and health care programs, as well.”
“We’ve also made the commitment to provide some face-to-face instruction for courses that could be delivered successfully online, but we feel are essential gateway courses within each of our seven pathways,” Schaffer said. Those core classes, which include English composition or public speaking, will be delivered in a hybrid of online and in-person learning formats.
“The instructional piece of (the reopening plan) is really coming together. We still have some work to do there. We’re still working on how does it look, how do we do social distancing,” Schaffer said.
Other institutions of higher learning, including nearby University of Wyoming, have announced plans to reopen on-campus learning in a modified format.
UW, for instance, announced last week that it will offer in-person classes until Thanksgiving break, after which point classes will resume online for the remainder of the semester.
Another big question for LCCC is how to proceed with managing its residence halls and comply with health guidelines. While UW has already said it will limit one student to each dorm room, LCCC, which shut down all of its residence halls at the end of March, is still not sure what it will do.
Other fall reopening details LCCC is still trying to hammer out – as well as colleges and universities across the country – include testing, screening and how to plan large gatherings.
Delayed dorm opening
One thing that is for certain, however: The pandemic-induced economic crisis has delayed completion of the $33 million, 350-bed residence hall which crews were supposed to finish by August.
Instead of using a contingency fund to pay overtime and partially complete the project as scheduled, LCCC’s Vice President of Administration and Finance Richard Johnson said the college is finalizing a deal Thursday to use that money for internal and external building enhancements.
Those include installing electronic access locks in each unit and building an e-gaming center.
Construction of the dorm is now expected to be completed in November and is set to open to students in January 2021.
“Are we risking running out of contingency funds?” asked Trustee Brenda Lyttle.
Johnson said that about $284,000 of the contingency fund has not yet been allocated.
“We have a mortgage on this project. Whether this project comes in at $32.5 million or $30 million, we’re going to pay the same debt services,” Johnson said.
“It’s not to our advantage to leave money on the table, but it’s more art than science trying to figure out how to have those various things dial in precisely where you want it at the end. … We’ll see how well we do.”
The delayed opening of the new dorms, Schaffer added, might just be a “blessing in disguise.”
In addition to receiving unexpected enhancements through the contingency fund, it will allow the college to “ease into an on-campus experience” this fall.