This week marks the start of fall registration for new students, and I’m excited for what the semester holds. The pandemic situation continues to improve in our community, and more people are getting vaccinated. As a result, we are preparing to fully reopen in fall with expanded in-person and online learning options — complete with student support services.
The pandemic forced us to think in new ways about how to support our students. I’m immensely proud of the ingenuity that happened. Now, as we prepare to reopen our campuses, we will carry these lessons forward.
We learned that online courses work for many. They offer the flexibility students want and need, and we will continue to offer online and hybrid options for those who prefer a more flexible schedule. But it’s time to do more for our students who require in-person instruction and access to important hands-on learning. This fall, we will significantly increase the number of face-to-face classes on campus. Our goal is to provide a balanced schedule so that students can find the classes they need in the learning environment that works best for them. Our full suite of student support services also will be available both on-campus and online.
To make this possible, all ACC campuses will reopen in some capacity — some for class, some for support services, some for business operations, and others will offer a mix of all three. This means most of us will return to campus to do our work by September 1* — the start of our new fiscal year. The details of our return are being developed in each area and will balance the work we do with the needs of our students. I’ve asked the executive vice presidents and vice presidents to work with their teams to develop plans for their area and keep their teams informed and updated. Employees will be asked to return to campus, unless approved to telework by the vice president and executive vice president.
I recognize that the ways we work have also changed over the past year, and we want to be supportive of our employees as well. The college is developing a new telework policy to allow supervisors the opportunity to designate positions which can effectively continue to work remotely. More details will be available in the coming weeks.
As we reopen — everyone’s well-being remains a top priority. Although we can no longer require face masks on campus, we do encourage anyone who is not vaccinated to wear one. We also will continue to enforce newly updated COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This includes health screenings at the door. For those who are fully vaccinated — there will be a new fast pass option. Anyone who shows proof of vaccination will get a pass for their ACC ID card. This pass will allow you immediate entry on campus without a health screening. We will begin rolling out this fast pass option immediately for certain employee groups. By July 6, it will be available to everyone with proof of vaccination.
As always, should the situation change, we will be ready to do what it takes to maintain a safe working and learning environment.
Our students and their success are the cornerstones that guide every decision we make. You have done a tremendous job putting them first. Across the state and nation, community colleges have seen a large dip in enrollments, yet ACC enrollments remain strong. Our students are still with us because of your ongoing grace and care. On Monday, I will ask our Board of Trustees to consider a 4 percent raise for our faculty and staffing table employees. Thank you for your continued support. I look forward to being together again, and I hope you do, too.
Richard M. Rhodes, Ph.D.
Austin Community College District
*CLARIFICATION: This has been corrected to reflect what was intended. Some employees will return to work sooner than September 1.