Pratt Community College moves forward with masks in place

Gale Rose
Pratt Tribune
Pratt Community College Admissions Representative Ashley Burnett (right) finishes a tour for new PCC student Katelyn Guffey (second from right) and her parents Brian and Cindy Guffey of McPherson. Masks are required in the commons area of the Benson Education Center as well as Lesh Sports Arena. Plans are to have students on campus and attending classes in the fall.

It was a common occurrence under very uncommon circumstances. A father and mother and their daughter paid a visit to the Pratt Community College campus, took a tour with the PCC women’s soccer coach as a guide and ended up in the commons area of the main building asking questions. 

This is a scene that has happened uncounted times at PCC and other colleges and universities across the U.S. But this one was very different. Parents Brian and Cindy Guffey and their daughter Katelyn Guffey, all of McPherson and the tour guide, Ashley Burnett, PCC admissions representative and head woman’s soccer coach, were all wearing face masks as preventative measure during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Katelyn Guffey said being able to actually come to campus and see it in person made her feel a lot better. 

“I’m excited to be here in the fall,” said Guffey who will be an agriculture business major. “It will be much better to be on campus than to have classes online. I like having interaction with people.” 

Burnett said it was great to have students back on campus in person. Over the much of the summer, campus tours were all virtual and Zoom with nothing live or face to face.

Burnett helped get Guffey, who had never been on campus, get enrolled and tour campus that helped get her excited about coming to PCC, Burnett said. 

The hour tour helped them get to know each other. Now, Guffey can use Burnett as a point of contact when she starts classes this fall.

Caitlin Miller, PCC director of admissions, agreed that it is a lot easier to go to school when the student has someone to connect with. 

Besides the students, the COVID-19 crisis has been difficult for all job levels at colleges and universities. Miller said the admissions staff has been resilient and made sure they provide all the necessary student services for enrollment and beyond. 

Traditionally, students would flock to campus on Beaver Building Days for one stop shopping for each office. But everything went remote to face to face over Zoom instead. 

When the campus opened, there were strict limits on student visits. Only 10 students were allowed in a group and each student was allowed only one guest. 

Masks are required for visits. There are signs on the doors alerting visitors that the switchboard office has free masks available. The masks are a bright Beaver blue with a Beaver logo on the mask to keep it festive. 

“We have to have some kind of fun,” Miller said. 

Students visit the required offices while maintaining a safe distance whenever possible.

Students are still making up their minds if they want to attend in person or take classes online. They have a lot of questions so the staff works to develop a plan for each student that will make them successful. 

Students are happy to get to come to campus and experience the tour and enroll. It 

“It’s a relief. I think they got a little “Zoomed” out over spring,” Miller said. 

It’s also been a relief to finally get students enrolling. At one point, enrollment was down close to 40 percent over last year. But now, its down to around five percent. 

The institution has done a good job of getting students enrolled. The return to school task force has done a great job, Miller said. 

“I’m really glad for students even though its a little late. Its an integral part of moving into adulthood,” Miller said.”

The top priority of PCC is the safety of the students, faculty and staff. In general, faculty and staff are required to wear masks in public areas or spaces where social distancing can’t be done. Miller has rearranged her office so she doesn’t have to wear a mask but she wears one anyway when students come in. 

Lisa Perez Miller, PCC vice president of Students and Enrollment Management, said masks will not be required residence hall rooms, meeting rooms or in classrooms but that will be up to the discretion of the instructor.

Masks will be required for everyone in hallways, the commons, Dennis Lesh Arena and lobbies of residence halls. Only students who live on campus will be allowed in residence hall rooms.