This month’s column marks 12 years since we first started this journalistic journey together, 20 years since I assumed the director’s role in the Marketing & College Relations office at Danville Area Community College. Looking back on those years, I can honestly say that this has been one of the strangest and most challenging.

I scanned my past “August” columns and they were full of promise — of the new semester and all the great events being planned for the fall. This year our fall events are cancelled — or have moved to the virtual world — but the semester still holds promise. We just have to work harder to realize it.

Nothing illustrates hope on a college campus more than students and teachers in classrooms. For the past several weeks I’ve served on a team of faculty and staff planning for the safe return of students, employees and visitors as we prepare for and participate in the fall semester. Our doors are open; we’re waiting for you.

DACC is welcoming students to campus with health checks, smaller classes, and face mask requirements. Some classes will be conducted in a modified hybrid where students physically attend on alternating days and virtually attend on others to ensure social distancing. For those who don’t feel comfortable even in small groups, who can’t see themselves wearing masks in class, or who need to be home to care for children or other family members, we’re offering a robust online menu of classes.

For everyone’s safety, thorough cleaning of high traffic/high touch areas and restrooms is conducted throughout the day.

Whenever feasible, hands-on experiential class activities and labs will be moved earlier in the semester to safeguard in case conditions require a return to an online format. For that same reason, instructors will be prepping their courses and instructing students — even those enrolled in in-person sections — on the use of Blackboard and Blackboard Collaborate online learning platforms, just in case. Fingers crossed, we won’t have to go there again, but failure to plan is planning to fail.

Services for students will be available with modifications to maintain social distancing. The bookstore will be open, but there may be times of limited occupancy. Computer labs will be open during normal business hours, and lab monitors will be on hand to ensure social distancing and to clean each station after use. Elevators are operational, but restricted to a maximum of two passengers. The Fitness Center and library will be open with specific capacity and cleaning guidelines.

The Student Union area will be open with limited seating and social distancing measures in place. Vending machines are operational and will be cleaned throughout the day. Water fountains are functioning, but drinking directly from the fountain is discouraged. Instead, reusable containers are encouraged.

With all the uncertainty, we want to help students complete their courses of study, earn their degrees and credentials, and move into the next stage of their lives as quickly and conveniently as possible. DACC is offering a $500 tuition waiver to anyone registered for 15 credits or more this fall and any course that is completely online at the beginning of the semester is available for 50 percent tuition.

We hope these safety measures and tuition discounts alleviate some of the trepidation and calm any fears about returning to the classroom this fall. We’re looking forward to seeing you here.

Lara Conklin is director of marketing and college relations at Danville Area Community College. Contact her at 443-8798 or e-mail lconklin@dacc.edu.

Lara Conklin is director of marketing and college relations at Danville Area Community College. Contact her at 443-8798 or e-mail lconklin@dacc.edu.

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