A month ago today, we welcomed students for the fall semester. I could not be more proud of how our faculty, staff, and students responded as we moved into another semester of primarily remote teaching, learning, and working. The dedication you have shown to support our students through this unpredictable pandemic is inspiring.
While the majority of what we do remains online, the college is working to carefully scale up in-person classes and reintroduce face-to-face support services for students. Our Emergency Operation Center and Return to Campus Committee are leading these efforts, along with many working teams across the college. Our focus now is on opportunities to support students with access to the technology they need to succeed. We are working with our ACCelerator support teams to reopen ACCelerators at Round Rock and Highland campuses to provide support services for students on a by-appointment basis. Capacity will be limited to no more than 25 percent to ensure safe social distancing practices. Since we don’t yet have an ACCelerator in the south region, we will provide the same student support services at the Hays Campus Library for students in our south region. This could happen as early as mid-October.
As we move forward, your health and safety must remain our first priority. Our strict health and safety protocols will remain in place, and we will continue to monitor the evolving situation closely and adapt our plans as needed.
These efforts have helped ensure the well-being of those who come to campus. Since the start of fall semester, only two self-reported cases of COVID-19 have been reported to ACC, and there remain no cases of on-campus transmission. We are carefully tracking COVID-19 case reports online. I cannot thank our employees and students enough for their due diligence.
As I have said many times through the pandemic, ACC has demonstrated the value of collaboration, connection, and caring. We continue to put our students first, and they appreciate it. I had the chance to sit down with some students for a virtual panel discussion this week and will share their thoughts with you at General Assembly on Friday. I’ll also have promising, new student success data to share. You won’t want to miss it.
My promise is that the college will work equally hard to provide our employees with the same dedication and support. As you’re aware, the college surveyed employees prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Our Climate Survey Report is now online. We will use this information to help shape our future as a college of collaboration, connection, and caring.
In that spirit, I want to remind you that it is voting season. The college supports and encourages all employees and students to exercise their civic responsibility by taking the time to vote. ACC provides each employee up to two hours of administrative leave for this purpose, with prior approval from your supervisor, and those of you who would like to volunteer for the election may request personal leave.
In order to continue our COVID-19 health protocols, we will not host polling locations on our campuses for this election. However, the Holiday Inn next to Highland Business Center will be an early voting site and Election Day voting center for the November 2020 election. You may find more information and helpful resources on our ACC Votes webpage.
Thank you for your continued support and dedication toward our students and their success. In recognition of your hard work, I recommended to the Board a two-percent raise for our faculty and staff this year. The board unanimously agreed. It takes effect retroactively September 1. I am honored to work with each of you and be a part of this incredible institution and Riverbat family.
Richard M. Rhodes, Ph.D.
Austin Community College District