PCC to use SPARK funds for deionizing system

Gale Rose
Pratt Tribune
Students are back on the Pratt Community College campus and school officials are working to create a safer environment for them by installing deioninzing systems in residence halls.

The Pratt Community College Board of Trustees has passed a resolution that will allow the college to receive Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas funds from the county. The college is now waiting for the state to pay the county that will reimburse the college for money spent on items directly related to COVID-19, said PCC President Michael Calvert.

The County received $1.8 million in SPARK funds and PCC is scheduled to receive $206,000 of those funds. A big portion of those funds, $100,000, is for a deionizing filtration system for the campus that is being installed now in residence halls for the start of school. The system will help filter out COVID-19. 

Other sanitizing equipment will be used in offices, classrooms and chairs. Funds will also pay for Personal Protective Equipment masks as well as signage across the campus and hotel rooms that can be used for quarantine if necessary, Calvert said. 

Some of the funding will be used to hire additional custodial staff needed to handle the extra cleaning. 

The Federal Cares Act provides the SPARK funds to states that give it to counties that determine what entities and businesses receive the funds. Some of the funds will be used to reimburse previously purchases items. 

As the college waits for funds to arrive, they also wait for students to arrive as the college prepares to start classes on Aug. 19. Summer enrollment was up nine percent from last year but the fall enrollment is down eight percent and that is a vast improvement from earlier in the summer when fall enrollment numbers were down over 30 percent. 

"A lot of progress has been made," Calvert said. 

Concurrent enrollment in the high schools is down but numbers are expected to pick up and close the gap on past enrollment. 

For the academic year, enrollment is down five percent. In anticipation of a drop, the college planned a budget for a 10 percent decrease. More students are making their decision on what they are going to do now that operations have become clearer, Calvert said.

The EDUKAN (on-line courses) numbers are down as well but they could also rebound. 

As enrollment numbers continue to improve, the test numbers in the PCC nursing program are improving. The college lost certification in it's Associate Degree in Nursing program because students were not meeting the benchmark 75 percent pass rate on first time tests for the National Council Licensure Examination, a required test to practice nursing. 

At this time, 17 students have graduated, 14 have taken the test and 11 have passed for 78.5 percent. Three still have to take the test and two have to pass to keep the 75 percent pass rate. If students reach the 75 percent passing rate for three consecutive years, the college will be able to apply for national certification again.

The practical nursing program is still accredited. They have 12 graduates with 10 taking the test and all 10 passing on the first try. 

Students seeking the Pratt County Senior Scholarship will not have to take part in community service requirements to receive the scholarship. The Trustees voted to suspend the community service requirement because students might not be able to fulfill it because of COVID-19. 

Depending on the need, seniors can receive either a full tuition or a $350 senior scholarship. The college provides 10,000 hours a year in community service.