Dear Riverbat Family,
Welcome back from the winter break. The new year has started with new challenges for our community, state, and nation, but I remain hopeful that 2021 will also bring us new opportunities to grow, learn, and heal. The past year has shown me that our Riverbat community is a strong one. We persevere. As we enter the new year, one thing stays the same: your health, safety, and well-being remain our top priorities.
We are monitoring what’s happening in the community and meeting regularly with our regional health and safety partners. In recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases has continued to climb. ACC continues to do what we can to limit the number of people on our campuses to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. You have helped us maintain a safe environment. To date, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 transmitted on our campuses. We strive to keep it that way. After consulting with ACC’s Emergency Operations Center and Return to Campus Committee, I decided the college will continue to remain fully remote for one more week. We will extend our current remote work status until the first day of spring classes on Tuesday, January 19. During this time, all non-essential ACC employees will be asked to work remotely. Your vice chancellor or supervisor will let you know what this means for your area.
Beginning January 19, classes will resume as scheduled. It will look a lot like fall. Essential faculty, staff, and students with face-to-face classes and labs will return to campus. Everyone else is asked to continue to work and learn remotely.
Balancing our mission to provide access to higher education with our commitment to keep our community safe is the foundation for everything we are doing. We are learning more about how the pandemic is impacting our students. It’s widening equity gaps — especially for those without reliable technology and internet access. ACC administrators, faculty, and staff continue to work to find the best ways to provide the in-person support students need.
Teams are currently reviewing options. Right now, our plans are to continue what we started in fall, including:
- In-person application support: In December, we offered in-person application support by appointment. We hope to do this again in the next couple of weeks for those who want to enroll in short-semester courses.
- Individual study space: In fall, we opened access to limited study space and computers. We are working to offer this type of support again in spring starting first with availability at the Highland Campus ACCelerator. As demand grows, we will be prepared to expand this service to other campuses across the region.
We also are planning how to safely resume in-person testing for TSI. As always, any return to campus will happen gradually, thoughtfully, and with the necessary health and safety protocols in place.
Many of you may be looking for opportunities to get the newly released COVID-19 vaccine. We are working with regional health authorities to try to get access for employees and/or students who qualify under the state criteria. The vaccine will not be required, but is strongly encouraged. In the meantime, we recommend you contact your healthcare provider for guidance.
The college will continue to meet with regional health authorities and remain at the table for high-level conversations and community decisions. Our plans will evolve as the situation changes. I will keep you updated and encourage you to check the COVID-19 informational website often.
Our work to educate the Central Texas community and close equity gaps has never been more important. I have no doubt 2021 will bring new challenges, but I am confident our administrators, faculty, and staff will continue to create bright spots along the way. I’m proud that ACC’s cautious response to COVID-19 is seen as an example of excellence. Thank you for your patience, understanding, and most of all, your dedication toward our students and their success.
Richard M. Rhodes, Ph.D.
Austin Community College District