It’s been a long time since my May column has been about something other than commencement. Instead, what I share with you today is our plan, or as much of a plan as we are able to define in the fluid situation created by the coronavirus.

Since the end of March, our campuses have been closed. We hope that by fall, you will again be able to visit. The majority of Cochise College employees have been working from home recently, teaching, advising, and answering questions about everything from financial aid to transcripts. Registration for summer classes, which will be offered online/streaming, is going on now. At this time, registration for fall classes will open June 8. What will that look like?

Arizona plans to gradually reopen, and Cochise College will follow suit. Our objective is to offer as much face-to-face instruction as possible this fall. However, some things may not be exactly the same as in the past, and our plans may change from week to week. We seek to take precautions as we invite people to visit campus again.

We have evaluated our physical spaces to determine ideal room arrangements in the era of the pandemic. Seats will be further apart, clear dividers will be installed at high-traffic counters, markers will be on the floor where lines form, and cleaning supplies will be readily available.

Moving forward, public walk-in hours have been established for different locations. They may change over time, so please stay tuned. College personnel will return to campus gradually beginning May 18 and may take turns staffing offices. On any given day, student services may bring part of its staff on campus and ask the other part to work from home in order to prevent one employee from spreading illness to an entire department. Classes, too, may be smaller in size or broken into small groups meeting on different days in order to allow for social distancing. You’ll see an expansion of remote learning programs, and stimulus funds will help build related IT capacity and train faculty/staff to operate efficiently in various remote environments. Some services will continue to be offered in an online format. Others may require an appointment. The college will resume scheduling public events and allowing external groups to reserve space when it is determined it can safely do so. You’ll get the chance to hear how different departments expect to operate via short videos that will be posted on social media and/or the college website.

We are reinventing the college, and we also recognize a need for some in our service area to reinvent themselves. As unemployment soars and industries change, Cochise College stands ready to prepare displaced workers for their next steps. As such, we are offering a limited number of Non-Traditional Student Scholarships for Cochise County residents ages 20 and older who have had a one-year break from education and declare a degree or certificate major. Awards range from $600 for part-time students enrolling in six or more credits to $1,200 for full-time students. The scholarship is open to any adult student who meets those criteria and complements other opportunities; we’ll continue to have available thousands of dollars for the Senior Scholarship.

Having said that, I’m extremely proud of the Class of 2020 and the Cochise College faculty and staff who helped them remain focused. Congratulations and thank you to all who have persevered through this difficult time.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

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