In an hour-long work session prior to the State Fair Community College Board of Trustees meeting Thursday afternoon, members discussed a college-wide plan for the return of students to SFCC campuses.

Administrators and trustees both acknowledged the return to in-person classes is subject to change as is the plan itself in light of the changes in confirmed COVID-19 case numbers. The campus is set to reopen Aug 3. 

“We are anxious to have everyone back on campus,” SFCC President Dr. Joanna Anderson said. “It has been a job to create as safe an environment as possible for the staff, faculty and students.” 

Anderson praised the work of the administrators and faculty who helped create the guidelines for the return to campus. She added the COVID-19 pandemic is a “very complex and complicated issue but everyone is doing the best they can.” 

All students, staff and visitors who are on any SFCC campus will be required to wear masks. Other recommendations include allowing students to take classes through a variety of options. Classes will be offered on-site for the 2020 fall semester. In most cases, online or hybrid versions of common courses will be available to students who are not ready to return to campus full-time. 

Trustee Jim Page expressed concern about parts of the plan. He questioned why the Fred E. Davis Multipurpose Center walking track would not be open to the community this semester. 

“I think this is a wrong decision,” Page said. “It should be open to the public to use...they helped to build this facility.”

Vice President for Educational and Student Support Services Brent Bates explained part of the walking track would be needed for student use. Bates reported a number of areas once available are now being converted to classroom space. 

“Some of the things we have been doing for the public we aren’t doing at this time for the safety of all,” Anderson remarked. “We love doing events but the challenge is to protect all.”

Page called that decision “nonsense,” adding it is not the college’s responsibility to mandate social distancing to adults.

Both Anderson and Board of Trustees President Randall Eaton told the Democrat following the meeting that since the campus closed in March, they have received no requests from the public to open the MPC for public walking. 

Page also raised concerns about opening campus housing. He suggested it would be best to not open the dorms or the available apartment units for students, questioning the safety of individuals who do not know one another to live in close proximity in the double-occupancy dorms. Page also suggested it was being done as a way for the college to increase its revenue. 

Dean of Student Academic Support Services Dr. Autumn Porter explained the guidelines for living in the residence halls. 

“We looked at a number of options for how to do this,” Porter said. “This is a choice they (the students) are making to do this, they know by doing so they may be at the highest risk but they understand the constraints that are placed upon them. The students want to come here and for some, it is their only option.” 

Porter said the college has a waiting list of 36 students requesting college housing.     

The full return to campus plan is available at https://bit.ly/2BpfjPu and with the online version of this article.

Fall enrollment is down approximately 11 to 12% from last year in headcount, SFCC administrators noted. Much of that can be attributed to dual credit and high schools being closed. Those high school students have not had the opportunity to enroll.

While college officials are looking forward to the return of students and staff, they realize instruction may have to revert back to online availability if cases of the COVID-19 virus continue to rise.

In an effort to better provide instruction to students, trustees approved two proposals using Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act funding.

The first authorizes spending $236,074.85 with CDW-G of Lincolnshire, Illinois, to update faculty and staff computers to laptop computers and peripherals.

The second proposal authorizes spending $296,520.86 to equip 114 classrooms throughout all SFCC campuses with technology to enable remote learning. According to information in the board packet, the technology includes cameras, speakers, microphones, monitors, workstations and all necessary peripherals to instruct classes to in-person and remote attendees. Selected vendors are Schillers Audio Visual of Sedalia for $199,918.67, JAM Marketing of Sedalia for $5,796.14 and CDW-G for $90,806.05.  

“State Fair is investing in classroom, faculty and staff technology upgrades in order to meet the demands of providing the effective instruction, service and operations to our students, faculty and staff,” Keith Acuff, Vice President for Finance and Administration, explained in an email. “Classrooms are being equipped with workstations, cameras, speakers, software and other equipment that will allow instructors to provide their lessons to students in the classroom and to those participating remotely. The same technology will also allow the instructor (in the event they would need to quarantine) to provide lessons remotely to the classroom and to remote participants.

“Faculty and staff are also being equipped with appropriate laptop computers, software and peripherals to carry out the business, academic, student service and other college operations from remote locations,” Acuff continued. “This will provide continuity for the college in the event of staff/faculty need to work remotely for a short period of time – whether due to COVID-19 or other circumstances such as inclement weather.”

In other actions trustees:

• Approved the Title IX Equal Opportunity, Sexual Harassment Policy and Grievance Process General Administration Policy 1211. 

• Approved the payment of all loan and lease payments scheduled for fiscal year 2021 as presented by Acuff. Page voted no. These payments include:  

Heckart Science and Allied Health COP: $600,450

UMB TRANE Energy equipment lease/purchase agreement: $459,973

Bank of America HP equipment lease/purchase agreement: $189,106

HP Financial Services Department of Economic Development: $115,337

Energize Missouri Loan-Lake Ozarks Campus: $161,247

Baily & Blum Inc.-Clinton Campus: $197,828

TRCDC Science Hall-Boonville: $25,400

City of Boonville Eldon Career Center: $30,000

Eldon School District copiers/print room: $39,600

Marco Mailing Equipment: $5,875 

• Authorized Acuff to write off $367,296 as uncollected balances for the fiscal year 2020.

“This is student debt that remains uncollected from the 2018-19 academic year and is 2.11% of student billings from that year,” Acuff explained. “For perspective, from 2011 to 2020, the average student debt annual write-off is 2.14% of corresponding academic year billings. At 2.11%, FY20 student debt write-off is slightly below historical experience.”

Acuff added the college will be monitoring the outstanding balances for the 2019-20 academic year to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on student payments.

• Approved payments of $3,319,577 for the month of June. 

Trustees voted to enter into closed session following the open session.   

The next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. Aug. 27.

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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