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College classes resume but classrooms are empty

Gale Rose
A parking lot at Wojciechowski Hall on the Pratt Community College Campus sits nearly empty as classes resume after spring break. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, all PCC classes have shifted to online status and residence halls sit empty.

Pratt Community College students went back to class March 30 after an extended spring break but the classrooms were empty at PCC.

Instructors have been busy preparing to teach their courses strictly online after the education system was shut down in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Students at PCC were told to move out of the residence halls for the remainder of the school year and those already on spring break were told not to return, said PCC President Michael Calvert.

Nearly every student in the residence halls was able to move out but about three dozen just didn’t have a place to go at first. But over the last couple of weeks, all but three of those students found other places to live, some went home, some are staying with family and some with friends, Calvert said.

The three students left all come from foreign countries where they have not been allowed to return because of the virus. They remain on campus and are living in a residence hall. As it turns out, all three just happen to live in the same residence hall so none of them had to move out of their rooms. The campus food service has stayed open to feed the students and others who continue working on campus.

Calvert said he hopes these students will soon find a place to live off campus in the next couple of months.

Residence hall students who were told not to return to campus had to leave their items in their rooms including text book and class materials they will need to take classes on line. The college has reached out to all the residence hall students and worked out a plan for those students to get their items. About 80 students have taken advantage of the offer and returned to campus to retrieve their items.

The campus would not let the students return to claim their items until last week and then it was under strict guidelines, Calvert said.

Students were assigned a specific time to return to campus and do an official checkout. Only one student at a time was allowed to check out at each residence hall. There was just a car or two in front of each residence hall. The in-charge housing staff were all wearing protective equipment while supervising the checkout, Calvert said.

“It was a very controlled environment. Students had to get in and get out,” Calvert said. “It’s been an interesting process to say the least.”

Students belongings were mailed to them upon request, if they lived at a distance. Several students took advantage of that option.

Spring enrollment and fall recruitment continues with some changes as college officials hope the world health situation will return to normal by the time August rolls around and classes are scheduled to start, Calvert said.

No campus visits are allowed at this time, no travel to visit prospective students and no face-to-face meetings are allowed.

Faculty and coaches are reaching out through social media and a virtual tour is in place to share with prospective students.

The total impact of the COVID-19 crisis has yet to be determined but it will most definitely impact educational institutions at all levels. The total impact of pulling 300 students out of the Pratt economy is unknown.

“We really don’t know the impact on the economy and income situation. It’s going to be a strange set of dynamics out there going forward,” Calvert said. “We’re planning and discussing strategies. We continue to build this plane as we are flying it.”