As the science shows, everyone is susceptible to the coronavirus. However, in many areas—including our region—we are seeing a high percentage of cases linked to younger adults ranging in age from 25-49. We also know that the younger adult population may experience lesser symptoms or have no symptoms at all, making people in this age group efficient “spreaders” of the virus.
Given that a majority of the PTC community falls within this demographic sector, it is our obligation to commit to doing our personal best to prevent the spread of the virus by adhering to precautions that have been shown to be effective safeguards. To provide this protection, the college has instituted a number of new policies and procedures that will be outlined in this document.
Starting with the July 2020 Quarter, PTC is using a phased approach to bringing programs back for face-to-face instruction in order to maintain CDC social distancing guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
July 2020 Quarter
For this pilot quarter, only PTC programs whose students require access to specialty labs and/or clinical sites for skills learning are returning to campus. Students in these programs will continue to receive all theory instruction virtually. The students returning to campus for the July 2020 quarter are enrolled in these programs:
- Culinary Arts [excluding 1st quarter students]
- Electrician Technology
- Electronics [excluding 1st quarter students]
- HVAC [excluding 1st quarter students]
- Medical Assisting
- Multimedia – Video Production [excluding 1st quarter students]
- Surgical Technology [excluding 1st quarter students]
- Therapeutic Massage
- Welding [excluding 1st quarter students]
All other PTC programs will remain virtual, following structured course schedules and receiving synchronous and/or asynchronous instruction through the college’s learning management system.
Bringing back a limited number of programs to campus in July reduces the on-campus student population to approximately 400 students, with approximately half of those individuals residing in on-campus housing. By keeping the on-campus population low, isolation and social distancing guidelines will be more easily met. Besides limiting the on-campus population, PTC is employing two other measures that further support our social distancing mandate:
- Staggered program/cohort start times
- Creative cohort scheduling (to keep the same students together in small cohorts,
often in the same room throughout the day)
October 2020 Quarter and Beyond
Since the situation surrounding the virus is ever-changing, PTC’s General Health and Safety Committee and sub-committees are developing plans with multiple options for future quarters, especially in light of recent spikes in cases and a projected increase coinciding with the flu season. Some possibilities being explored for October 2020 include transitioning additional programs back on campus and increasing instructional technology tools in classrooms to maximize learning in a socially distanced environment.
Our ability to control the spread of the virus on campus—and the region’s ability to contain the spread outside of our campus—will be pivotal in influencing our plans for future quarters. A fluid state such as this will require patience and flexibility from all members of the PTC Community as the college works to keep students on track towards program completion while navigating the limitations caused by COVID-19.
Education and Awareness
The success of PTC’s Return to Campus Plan will hinge on day-to-day personal behavior. This mindset starts with being well-informed on the science of the novel coronavirus and why prevention strategies are of the utmost importance. Education has shown to improve health outcomes, so PTC focused much attention on developing a comprehensive education strategy that encompasses the elements detailed below. Beyond the launch of this initial training, ongoing educational strategies will be implemented as the COVID-19 status changes or further needs are identified.
Universal COVID-19 Educational Modules – Before returning to campus, all PTC students, faculty, and staff must complete two online COVID-19 educational modules that will help them better understand—and embrace—the policies and procedures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Course content includes general information on COVID-19 origin and spread, effects on vulnerable populations, typical vs. severe symptoms, when to seek medical assistance, and evidence-based prevention measures.
Part of the completion of the two-module set involves sign-off on the PTC Personal Responsibility Statement that captures the key practices for protecting individuals, those around them, and the entire PTC Community. Signing this document symbolizes each individual’s commitment to accepting responsibility for their role in keeping our campus safe.
For each of the two modules, participants complete a pre-test to evaluate their level of prior knowledge. Then they must score 80% or higher on a post-test to ensure sufficient comprehension of the key points. If an individual does not successfully complete these two core modules (or fails to sign the PTC Personal Responsibility Statement), they will not be permitted on campus until these tasks are complete.
- COVID-19 Guidelines for Housing Students – Every new or returning student who will reside in PTC housing must complete an online module that reviews the specific Resident Life regulations designed to keep residents and the rest of the PTC Community safe. Also reviewed are the various documents that must be returned prior to a student’s departure for the PTC campus. As with the universal COVID-19 modules above, housing students must score an 80% or higher on the post-test to enter campus.
- COVID-19 Screener Training – This specialized training is designed for PTC faculty, staff, and student work studies who will facilitate the daily screening process for any person’s admission to the PTC Main Academic Building, the Energy Tech Center, or the three residence halls. Screeners must complete an online module that outlines the step-by-step procedure involved in all three stages of the screening/admission process. Additional video training on the process for administering a thermometer check is available for those screeners assigned to that specific role. The health screeners will also undergo detailed site training before they assume any of the three screening roles.
- Sanitation Practices Training – All PTC personnel and students will be trained on safe use of any cleaning and disinfecting products that they may be required to use in labs or office areas.
A Public Health Awareness Campaign centered on a Know-How, No Matter What theme has been launched across campus. An array of colorful signage promotes fundamental principles like hand washing, social distancing, signs and symptoms of COVID-19, and actions to take in the event that such symptoms present themselves. Armed with formal training and a visual reminder of best practices, it is hoped that the PTC community will adopt a “see something, say something” approach to help prevent the spread of the virus on campus.
The PTC Facilities team has established a number of protocols to decrease the risk of COVID-19 in campus facilities:
- Reduced room capacities – A major adjustment in the on-campus learning environment is the decrease in the number of students per classroom, specialty lab, and simulation room. These reduced capacities were calculated based on each room’s square footage and a designated 6-foot perimeter between each student to maintain recommended safe distancing guidelines. To accommodate smaller class sizes, the college added more course sections.
- Traffic patterns – Specific entrance and exit points have been identified to reduce traffic flow coming in and out of campus buildings. Unidirectional traffic patterns have also been created to maintain social distancing in hallways, stairwells, and ramps. An abundance of signage will direct traffic flow and help maintain social distancing in potentially congested areas.
- Expanded housekeeping staff and sanitation practices – The Facilities team has hired extra housekeeping staff and created rigorous sanitation schedules so that surfaces can be cleaned and disinfected according to recommended CDC guidelines.
- Monitoring of engineering controls – The water and ventilation systems are being closely monitored and regulated in accordance with promulgated guidelines.
- Limited use of common spaces – To prevent unnecessary person-to-person and person-to-surface contact, most common gathering spaces will be closed during the pandemic, including meeting rooms, sitting areas, unused classrooms, and any recreation rooms in student housing. Smoking areas, which are notorious for airborne transmission, have been centralized to one designated location per building. The PTC café will operate via a touchless ordering system (including an online ordering option) and provide limited seating. The Library Resource Center lab and study space will be closed, but the full electronic library and services of the library staff will continue to be available to all students virtually.
Accentuated Specialty Lab Protocols
The main criterion for identifying certain programs as the first to return to face-to-face instruction was the need for competency-based learning in specialty labs such as PTC’s surgical technology operating room, culinary pastry kitchen, or welding lab. Students in these and other labs are already expected to abide by established procedures that ensure a safe and sanitary work environment. With the extra level of protection necessitated by the pandemic, instructor teams in each of the on-campus programs have developed expanded lab policies based on evidence-based CDC guidelines for reducing viral transmission. These policies are a crucial part of an instructor’s teaching plan on the first day of lab—and reinforced every day thereafter.
Each student will receive a copy of the COVID-induced policies specific to their lab, as well as general sanitation polices that have been universally enacted across all PTC specialty labs. After students have been briefed on the lab policies, they will be asked to sign a hardcopy of the Personal Responsibility Statement that signifies their commitment to honoring these additional policies.
Modified Student and Employee Policies
To address operational changes stemming from the COVID-19 situation, a number of student and employee policies have been either modified or created, and these policies will continue to be reviewed as the environment dictates. Additions to both the student and employee policies outline requirements pertaining to use of personal protection equipment (PPE), the reporting of signs and symptoms of the virus, and the consequences for not following safety protocols.
In light of the current situation, certain student policies have been modified to relax relevant traditional academic policies (e.g., attendance and make-up requirements). From an employee standpoint, one new policy provides guidance for on-ground classes in the event that a faculty member becomes ill or does not clear the daily screening. Other new policies are designed to keep as many employees working from home as possible and encourage faculty and staff to hold virtual meetings even when on campus.
The changes to student policies, as well as any necessary consequences for noncompliance, were communicated to all students through an addendum to the Code of Student Conduct prior to the July 2020 Quarter. All PTC employees received a similar communication with a link pointing them to policy changes to the PTC Personnel Manual on the PTC intranet. All of these policies were carefully considered by the General Health and Safety Committee and sub-committees, with health and safety as the chief concern. To preserve those standards, management will actively enforce the documented consequences.
Heightened Housing Regulations
Proactively Identifying Student Level of Risk
Before being permitted to move on campus, all residents need to complete the following forms as a means for assessing their level of risk:
- Pre-Arrival Health Screening – This form asks students who are scheduled to move into a PTC apartment to complete a health questionnaire verifying that they do not have COVID-19 or any associated symptoms. Because of the time-sensitive nature of this information, students are asked to complete the survey within 72 hours of departing for PTC. This way, if they have experienced any of the symptoms within the past 72 hours, they will know not to depart for PTC since their symptoms will preclude them from entering a campus building.
- Student Assessment of Risk – To proactively address special health concerns, students returning to campus will be asked to fill out a brief survey to help PTC management identify individuals who are at higher risk due to medical conditions or special job responsibilities, such as those who may be working in healthcare facilities. This information is critical in matching up safe student apartment assignments, as well as in creating individualized plans for students who may not be able to (or do not feel comfortable with) returning to campus.
- Student Safety Plan – This two-page form asks the student to provide emergency contact information and a campus exit plan to be implemented in the event the student is either exposed to COVID-19 or becomes ill. (The Student Safety Plan is explained in more detail in the Containment discussion later in this section.)
Reduced Apartment Capacities
For the July 2020 academic quarter, PTC housing capacity has been reduced, with only two students assigned to one apartment. Each student has his/her own bedroom and bathroom. Although the roommates share common areas such as the kitchen and living room, they will receive specialized training on how to properly social distance while sharing these spaces. PTC will diligently monitor viral trends in the local and regional areas to determine to what degree housing capacities may change in upcoming quarters.
Strategic Roommate Assignments
Roommate assignments will be based on two chief factors: academic program and student information identifying those at high risk. PTC’s primary goal in pairing roommates is to prevent students at higher risk due to a medical condition from sharing an apartment with individuals whose place of employment (e.g., a medical facility) exposes them to a greater potential for contracting the virus.
Modified Housing Policies
New and/or modified Resident Life policies and processes designed to safeguard the health of all campus residents include the following:
- Staggered move-ins
- Unidirectional entrances, exits, and passageways throughout residence halls
- Daily health screenings
- Required face masks – students are required to wear a cloth face covering at all times as they proceed through common areas [e.g., stairwells, elevators, laundry areas] on their way to and from their assigned apartment
- Required cleaning of apartments, including individual and common spaces – it is recommended that students only bring essential items to make cleaning more efficient and allow for swift removal in the event that their Student Safety Plan is enacted or a campus shutdown is required
- Enhanced and more frequent cleaning procedures for common spaces based on CDC recommendations
- No-guests policy – non-residents will not be granted access to the residence halls, nor will student residents be permitted to visit other apartments
To reinforce these practices, housing students will complete specialized training, and all residence halls will be included in the college-wide Public Health Awareness Campaign.