We are three weeks into the fall semester. As you’re aware, we temporarily moved some in-person classes to virtual learning environments for the start of the semester. We spent those weeks enhancing our health and safety protocols and procedures. You’ll find those details below. Now, as planned, we are prepared and ready to resume our original fall schedule on Monday, September 13.
I recognize there are many feelings on all sides of this situation. I want you to know, these decisions do not come lightly. We continue to consult with community health authorities, evaluate COVID-19 data in the region, and weigh the needs of our students and employees. We have students who want and need in-person resources and classes. We want to support their needs and success. Doing so takes a balanced and thoughtful approach.
What to Expect
ACC has been cautious throughout the pandemic. This will not change. As more of us prepare to return to in-person learning and work, our campuses will remain at low capacity.
Since the beginning of the semester, we have hosted approximately 9,000 students for courses that required face-to-face learning. You can expect approximately 4,700 additional students on campus beginning next week. These students will be spread out on different days, times, and locations across all 11 campuses districtwide. This allows us to maintain safe spacing and fewer people at any given time.
I have asked the vice chancellors to work with their teams to identify the best plan for each area. They will evaluate what is needed to support in-person learning and services. You can expect more information from your vice chancellor and supervisor about how this return may impact your schedule.
Students can expect to hear from their instructors about any changes to their class schedule.
New & Expanded Health & Safety Measures
While our community remains in stage 5 guidelines, regional data indicate case numbers are trending downward. We may experience new cases following the holiday weekend, but we are better prepared to ensure health and safety on our campuses than we were at the start of the semester. We have required face masks on campus since August 20. Since then, fewer than 10 cases have been reported on our campuses among faculty, staff, and students. None were transmitted on campus. Starting next week we will introduce new and expanded health and safety measures to increase our efforts.
For those of you who will be on campus, I want to assure you that ACC’s health and safety protocols remain in place, and we’re doing even more starting next week. Beginning Monday, September 13, we will offer free COVID-19 testing at Round Rock, Highland, Riverside, and Eastview campuses. The testing, provided by Curative, will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. You can find the details on our COVID-19 website. These testing services may expand as needed. We also will introduce new health and safety liaisons on select campuses. These staff can support you with COVID-19 testing and questions.
ACC continues to host COVID-19 vaccination clinics. To date, the college has offered more than 30 vaccination clinics on campus. The COVID-19 vaccination remains a top recommendation to protect your health. Clinics are free and open to the community. I encourage you to get the vaccine if you’re eligible to do so. Here is a link to our vaccination schedule. You may find a vaccine clinic closer to you here.
Ongoing Health & Safety Measures
Face Masks, Health Screening App & Social Distancing
We continue to require face masks for anyone age 2 and up while in an ACC building. This is Board policy, and it has not changed. We will offer supplies on campus in the Campus Managers’ offices for anyone who doesn’t have a mask. We also require self-health screening through the Appian self-screening app for everyone who comes to campus, and we strongly encourage everyone to respect others’ personal space, practice social distancing, and wash their hands.
These measures combined have helped us stay safe. To date, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 transmitted on campus. Our goal is to keep it that way. If you think you may have COVID-19 or have been exposed, please submit ACC’s self-report form. This helps us perform our contact tracing steps.
As we move forward, I want to remind you that ACC will continue to monitor the regional data daily. Our capacity on campuses will remain low, and our health and safety protocols will evolve as the situation changes. We will keep you updated, and you may follow the latest on our COVID-19 website.
We must all continue to do our part. It takes each and every one of us working together to keep our students on track and our community safe. I appreciate your efforts. Thank you, for your continued patience and grace.
Richard M. Rhodes, Ph.D.
Austin Community College District