The start of our spring semester coincided with a regional surge of COVID-19 cases. As you know, ACC acted swiftly to adjust our plans to limit the number of people on our campuses in an effort to protect the health and safety of employees and students.
We temporarily moved some courses that were scheduled to be in-person to virtual environments for the first two weeks of the semester. We’ve continued to closely monitor the situation across our community. This morning, we learned from local health officials that case numbers in Central Texas have plateaued. We are seeing the same trend at ACC with COVID-19 case reports. As a result, we are prepared and ready to resume our original spring schedule as planned on Monday, January 31. This means all in-person courses that moved online for the first two weeks will begin to meet on campus as initially scheduled.
Our decision does not come lightly. ACC has been cautious throughout the pandemic. This will not change. We carefully reviewed the regional case numbers and hospitalizations. We also reviewed our in-house data. We continue to consult with community health authorities, colleagues across the region, our own Emergency Operations Center, and our Return to Campus Committee. We weigh this data with the needs of our students and employees. There are many who want and need in-person resources and classes.
This transition impacts approximately 25 percent of our spring classes. Students enrolled in those courses will begin face-to-face learning as planned beginning January 31. Capacity on campuses will remain low because these classes are held on different days and at different times, spread across our 11 campuses districtwide.
If you’re a student whose class is impacted, you can expect to get an update from your instructor.
As more of us return to campus, I want you to know that ACC will continue to enforce its health and safety protocols. What we’re doing at ACC goes beyond what most of our peers in higher education are doing, because we feel it is important to ensure you have a safe and supportive learning, teaching, and working environment.
Here’s what you can expect when you come to campus:
- Face Masks | Per ACC Board policy, face masks are required for anyone age 2 and up while in an ACC building. If you forget a mask, please visit the Campus Managers’ office for help. We will have limited supplies available.
- COVID-19 Testing | Beginning January 31, ACC will offer free COVID-19 testing at ACC Highland Campus. The testing schedule will vary from day to day and campus to campus. You may find the testing schedule on our COVID-19 website along with other testing resources available to you in our community.
- Health Safety Liaisons | Students or employees who begin to display symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while they’re on campus should check in at the Campus Managers’ Office to be connected with an ACC Health Safety Liaison. Our Liaisons also support students and employees with COVID-19 testing and other related questions.
- COVID-19 Vaccinations | COVID-19 vaccination clinics remain available on select campuses. We encourage everyone who is qualified to get the vaccine to take the time to do so. Our clinics are free and open to the community. Here is a link to our vaccination schedule. You may find a vaccine location closer to you here.
- Health Screening | We also require everyone to submit a self-health screening through ACC’s health app. This will help you know if you’re cleared to come to campus.
- Social Distancing | We continue to limit capacity for in-person classes to ensure enough space for social distancing.
- Self-Reporting Illness | If you are experiencing COVID-like symptoms or think you have been exposed, you must submit ACC’s self-reporting form. This form will alert Safety & Environmental Management staff of your situation and provide you with next steps as outlined in ACC’s reporting flowchart.
It’s important that we all follow these steps and do what we can proactively to stay healthy and keep our community safe. Please continue to follow safety guidelines — get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and stay home if you are sick. Your efforts to date have made a huge impact. There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 transmitted on campus since the start of the pandemic, and our goal is to keep it that way.
ACC will continue to monitor the regional data, and we remain prepared to make changes to our health and safety protocols as the situation evolves. As always, you may follow the latest information on our COVID-19 website.
Thank you for your continued support, patience, and grace. I look forward to welcoming many of you on campus next week.
Richard M. Rhodes, Ph.D.
Austin Community College District