For several months, Tyler Junior College officials have been carefully planning for the new academic year, with their preparation guided by two priorities:
1) promote the health and safety of the entire campus community; and
2) ensure an excellent academic experience for students
“I had many mixed feelings about starting my first day of college — motivated, nervous and excited, all at the same time,” said Emma Caldwell, a freshman general studies major from Tyler. “I still hold these feelings along with the understanding that the majority of students around me are feeling the same way. I’m beyond thrilled for this semester at TJC and what it has to offer me.”
A safe return to campus life
Before Monday’s classes began, all students, faculty and staff were required to complete an online training session on campus health and safety guidelines related to COVID-19.
Classrooms, student services and campus dining operations and formats have been adjusted for physical distancing.
Face coverings are required in all buildings, including classrooms, dining facilities, common areas within residence halls, and in outdoor settings where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
“Truthfully, I didn’t expect there to be as many safety precautions in place as there are, but I am so happy to see them being enforced and followed by staff and students,” Caldwell said. “From the physical distancing in each classroom to the strict enforcement of masks, I believe the institution as a whole has the ability to succeed safely as long as we as students continue to do our part.”
A variety of academic offerings
“Our incoming class of first-time-in-college (FTIC) students is at more than 3,000 and still growing, given the late demand for additional courses,” said Kim Lessner, TJC vice president for operations and chief communications officer. “We are most proud that our returning students are back stronger than ever before and continuing their college journey despite the setbacks caused by COVID-19.”
TJC’s Official Reporting Day (ORD) for fall enrollment is Sept. 9.
TJC continues to offer dynamic instruction in small classes organized around robust discussion, group problem-solving, hands-on learning and personal faculty attention, while making necessary adjustments to follow public health and safety guidelines.
• Face-to-face classes — All in-person classes have been assigned to a classroom that allows for appropriate physical distancing. Some classes have been rescheduled to provide an appropriately sized room, with some campus spaces that have traditionally been used for other purposes being converted to academic classrooms.
For example, the Apache Rooms in Rogers Student Center and the TJC Band Hall have been reconfigured as classroom spaces; and for the time being, Gentry Gym has been temporarily transformed into the band hall, complete with seating, music stands, conductor’s podium and massive wall of lockers for musical instruments.
• Hybrid classes — In some cases, classes originally scheduled for fully face-to-face instruction been converted to hybrid courses, with half of the instruction delivered in person and the other half online.
• Online classes — In addition to the online offerings already planned, some courses originally scheduled as face-to-face or hybrid have been adapted to a fully online format.
TJC faculty who teach online courses have spent the summer participating in additional training for Canvas and Zoom teaching platforms, to ensure they are well prepared to offer online students a high-quality and engaging instructional experience.
These expanded online offerings also provided additional flexibility to students choosing an entirely online schedule this fall.
Health, safety and resilience
The health and safety of the campus community will continue to be of paramount importance in TJC’ planning efforts.
The College’s COVID-19 Task Force, in consultation with an infectious disease specialist and other physicians, has identified ways to mitigate campus risks associated with COVID-19.
The College continues to invest aggressively in a series of strategies promoting community health and safety, including:
• A rigorous physical distancing framework that will apply to all aspects of campus life, including dining facilities, libraries and classrooms
• Protocols for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing
• Plans and resources for isolating students who test positive for COVID-19 and quarantining close contacts, including the ability to participate in classes remotely
• Cleaning and disinfecting protocols consistent with CDC standards
• Plans designed to promote healthy building environments
Recognizing that the pandemic’s course could change at any time and create the need for a quick shift in instruction and campus life, TJC will continue to deliver high-quality instruction and student services without interruption.
A shared responsibility
“We have always been a community of Apaches inhabiting a shared space that connects and sustains us all. That will never be truer than in the coming academic year,” Lessner said.
She continued, “All of us are working intently to prepare for a safe and enriching fall semester for our students. I know that together we will continue to meet this moment with creativity, determination, generosity and success — and, once again, demonstrate the distinct and transformative power of a TJC education.”