TCC incorporating community partners in developing coronavirus reopening plan

From Tallahassee Democrat

A task force at Tallahassee Community College is expected to prepare recommendations for moving forward with reopening in the fall.

The task force, appointed by TCC President Jim Murdaugh and chaired by TCC provost and executive vice president Madeline Pumariega, consists of internal staff and community leaders serving in an advisory capacity.

“Our No. 1 priority is the safety and health of our faculty, staff and students,” Pumariega said.

The college’s final recommendations are being driven by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as is the case with higher education campuses across the country.

Those guidelines include planning for COVID-19 test monitoring and temperature checks, incorporating social distancing in how in-person classes are presented, along with remote teaching, academic course offerings and keeping students engaged.

TCC has been successful in transitioning to virtual practices such as online counseling and advising, and student conferences with professors.

The college already is offering students live interactive summer classes, during which students engage in a real-time classroom environment with fellow students and professors. The teaching method was in response to students’ desires to maintain the in-person classroom experience while working remotely.

“While the Summer LIVE courses provide greater flexibility, they are not self-paced,” the college said. “They are highly facilitated courses, and students are expected to interact with faculty and their peers nearly every day of the term.”

Earlier this month, Murdaugh said he wants to use this as an opportunity to advance the use of technology the campus already has embraced in moving forward as it offers a combination of in-person classes and online offerings and services to students.

“Our team has rallied and made a significant commitment that we don’t want to ‘go back to normal,’ ” Murdaugh said during a meeting of city, county and Leon County Schools representatives. “It’s not a desire. We are looking for opportunities to shift the model of what we need to do to provide education to our students.”

Pumariega said the task force recommendations will be decided “based on data and science.”

Areas being studied include how classrooms can be rearranged to address social distancing and maximizing campus safety.

“We don’t have to bring everyone on campus the first day,” she said.

The task force is focusing on areas such as health and safety protocols, operations, student success and support, academic continuity and workforce innovation and stakeholder engagement.

Members of the task force’s advisory council include Sue Dick, president and CEO of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce; Berneice Cox, CEO of the United Way of the Big Bend; and Wanda Hunter, assistant Leon County administrator for citizen services.

Among those sharing input with the task force have included Dr. Andrea Friall, chief medical officer at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare; Tanya Tatum, director of student health services at Florida A&M University; and Cynthia Harris, director of the Institute of Public Health at Florida A&M.

Dr. Jean Chin, who chairs the guidelines committee of the National COVID-19 for the American Colleges Health Association, also recently presented to the group through a virtual conference.

Pumariega said leveraging community partnerships will be important in the college’s decisions. For instance, providing ongoing testing for COVID-19 could be conducted in association with onsite testing at Florida A&M and the Leon County Health Department, or Florida State.

“This has been a disruptive time, but after any disruption, the possibility of innovation emerges,” she said.