I hope this email finds you healthy in both mind and spirit during these times of uncertainty. Just when I think I know what our next step will be at the college, we are thrown another curve ball in the form of new information, changed guidance, or additional variables. I will do my best today to update you on where we are with some basic questions:
- When are we coming back to campus? Short answer - not yet. Most of you will be home telecommuting this summer with essential personnel coming and going as needed. Our plans are to continue to keep all campus locations restricted to the general public, since it is so challenging to prevent crowds of people from gathering. As we will likely enter Phase I in the next two weeks, our buildings will still remain closed to the public, we will still require physical distancing and face coverings per CDC guidelines, and we will begin allowing career and technical education students back on campus to meet their objectives - as long as we can keep them in small groups, socially distanced, and with face masks or appropriate PPE. This is no small task, and we thank our faculty for their patience in altering their curriculum to meet these guidelines. Further details will be coming out from the Provost’s office as our COVID Response Team and administration work out details.
- What are the Phases? Governor Brown is approaching Oregon’s return to work in three phases, on a county-by-county approach. Counties can move from one phase to the next based on declining COVID-19 prevalence, a minimum testing regimen, plans for contact-tracing, appropriate isolation capacity, sufficient healthcare capacity, adequate PPE, and finalized statewide sector guidelines.
A copy of the Governor’s message about reopening Oregon can be found on her website: NewsDetail. This presentation includes guidance from the Governor’s office about how reopening will proceed. Lane County plans to move forward with Phase I starting May 15 pending state approval, and LCC plans to move into Phase I the following week. The Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) is developing their own guidance based on the governor’s model. In Phase I in Lane County, we could see restaurants and bars open with limited sit-down capacity, hair salons and gyms open with limited capacity and social distancing, and limited social gatherings of up to 24 people. Phase II will allow optional increased work in offices, expansion to limits of social gatherings, and visitation to nursing homes. Phase III will allow large groups to meet, like concerts and conventions, but will unlikely occur until a vaccine or a cure/treatment is available. A copy of Lane Community College’s Phase I Matrix can be viewed here.
- What about fall term? Fall term most likely will not look much different than summer. We will be expected to continue to keep as much instruction and other work at home and off campus as possible throughout Phase I and II. However, advancing in phases will enable the college to allow CTE programs to return to campus for essential hands-on training, with a potential to expand to other arts and sciences laboratory activities. Supervisors will continue to assess the type of work that is needed for telecommuting delivery, and will adjust workloads accordingly.
- What happened to the COVID-19 Stimulus money? The college applied for and received the first half of our approximately $3M allotment. The first half is 100% directed to our students. Students who were deemed eligible for Title IV funds through the filing of a FAFSA form are receiving this money. Once those funds are distributed, colleges can apply for the second half of funds for reimbursement of COVID related expenses. We need everyone at the college to document funds that their departments are spending as a result of COVID-19, including but not limited to all expenses incurred due to telecommuting. Deborah Butler, Chief of Staff (firstname.lastname@example.org) can help you document these expenses.
- What about Commencement? Our original intention was to have an in-person graduation this fall, but under the current guidelines, but this is not realistic anymore. Student Affairs is planning a Virtual Commencement for June 2020. This will allow students and their families to recognize their accomplishments and have closure on the academic year. All June 2020 graduates will be invited to participate in the Virtual Commencement. Dr. Jarrell will be communicating more details about Commencement in his next college communication.
- Are 4J schools having their graduation ceremonies in our parking lots? The college was attempting to partner with 4J and Oak Hill School to allow them to use college parking lots for modified drive-in commencement events. However, they have received guidance from the Oregon Department of Education that such a gathering would not comply with the governor’s order and would not be permissible for this academic year. We were looking forward to recognizing the achievements of all of these students, and will still plan an outreach activity to invite them to consider LCC as they plan the next step in their education plans.
- How much will our state allocation be reduced for FY21? We will not know the full extent of possible reductions until June but have been instructed by the HECC and Oregon Community College Association (OCCA) to prepare for a reduction of 8.5% over the FY20-21 biennium, which has an impact of 17-23% during the final year of a two-year budget cycle.
Why? Back in 2003, during another recession, the state government held back the last quarterly payment of our state funding allotment, and we have “been behind” a payment ever since. That translates to LCC receiving only 3 payments the second year of the biennium at the already reduced rate, so the amount reduced is magnified more for community colleges.
- Didn’t we just pass our FY21 budget at the May meeting? Yes, but because we did not yet have a full picture of our post-COVID-19 financial picture, we were forced to pass a budget based on earlier numbers. We cannot adjust our budget until we are much more certain how state funding will be affected, sometime in June. The Board of Education is prepared to address a revised budget after receiving feedback from the citizen Budget Committee. The Budget Committee understands that we must have a budget passed in June to comply with Oregon budget law, but that we will need to submit a balanced budget in accordance with the new state allocation once it is known.
- Can I take vacation time this summer? Yes! We want everyone to take some time off. Everyone needs to refresh and recharge after an exhausting two months. We encourage everyone to work with their supervisors to plan their vacation time.
- When will the next Virtual Town Hall be held? We will schedule the next virtual town hall as soon as we receive more guidance from HECC regarding our next move from the current Executive Order to Phase I.
- Any news on the bond? We are approximately one week out from knowing whether Lane County voters approve the $121.5 M bond. This will be an item at our May 20 Board of Education virtual meeting. Remember to get those ballots in!
I hope all of the mothers reading this had a very happy Mother’s Day. For those of us whose mothers are no longer with us, I wish you peace on this day of remembrance and honoring those who raised us and helped shape us to be who we are today.
Stay well and stay home,