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Northeast to require facemasks on all campuses

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NORFOLK — Northeast Community College continues to put plans into place as faculty, staff, and students prepare to begin the fall semester Aug. 17.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plans have been developed to include appropriate social distancing and classroom safety protocols when close contact is required due to the nature of the skill being taught. Changes in delivery of instruction will include moving from many traditional face-to-face classes to more online and synchronous online (virtual) classes, as well as reduced numbers of students and social distancing protocols in limited face-to-face classes.

Northeast President Leah Barrett said many people at all campuses have been working extremely hard over the past several months to ensure that students will continue to be provided with an outstanding education while keeping safety in mind. She said planning is a challenge as COVID-19 is so unpredictable.

“It will certainly be the most challenging start to a fall semester in the history of Northeast Community College. However, under the guidance of our local public health districts, I am confident we have plans in place that will allow us to move forward in safely welcoming students and the public to our campuses,” Barrett said.

Barrett said buildings that will hold face-to-face classes in the fall will open Aug. 10, with normal business hours during the fall semester. Disinfectants and appropriate informational signage are being made available and plans are also being put into place to implement the appropriate social distancing and classroom safety protocols when close contact is required in face-to-face classes and labs.

“We have been transparent in what classes will be delivered in traditional face-to-face settings and what has moved online and/or virtually, as well as reducing the number of students in limited face-to-face classes,” Barrett said. “Instructors have been working diligently to design their courses with adaptation in mind for the coming term. I am grateful for their time and commitment to the process.”

In addition, Barrett said Northeast Community College will join many other regional colleges and universities in requiring the wearing of face masks or shields by faculty, staff, students, and visitors in all college buildings at all locations.

However, face coverings will not be required when someone is working in an enclosed or private office or when outdoors working or moving between buildings unless social distancing of at least six-feet cannot be maintained. For those who cannot wear a face mask or who are exempted from wearing a covering, a doctor’s note will be required to come onto any Northeast campus.

“Northeast is expecting everyone to wear their face mask when in class or conducting college business in any of our buildings,” Barrett said. “We believe the face mask requirement will help stem the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses and create a safer environment as we resume operations this fall.”

Barrett also expressed her appreciation to John Blaylock, executive vice president, and Brian Paulsen, director of safety and emergency preparedness, who have led the Northeast CO-VID Response Team in operational guidance to Northeast.

“The entire team has spent hours upon hours sifting through the guidance to identify the best practices to ensure the safety of our college community members and to ensure we can provide the conditions for student learning.”

Barrett said the upcoming academic year will be unlike anything that anyone at the institution has ever experienced, but it could also provide opportunities for Northeast Community College to think outside the box and develop new ways to meet the needs of its students and constituents.

“Many lessons have been learned since most instruction was moved online and work has been performed from remote locations. It hasn’t been easy, but our employees have persevered and demonstrated grace and excellence in moving forward. I want to extend my sincere thanks for the dedication and steadfastness of the Northeast staff and faculty as we continue to move forward during this extraordinary time.”

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