When the COVID-19 pandemic began to close the doors of many businesses, industries and educational institutions across the United States, Ogeechee Technical College acted to guarantee the ongoing delivery of quality technical education and training.
The college implemented a hybrid model of learning in May ensuring the continuation of the hands-on, skilled-based training component inherent in the production of an essential workforce for this area.
As with other postsecondary institutions in the state, OTC quickly transitioned to an online-only instructional model in April when students were no longer allowed on campus. Over the weeks that followed, OTC’s faculty developed a hybrid model of delivery which included online instruction coupled with lab instruction on campus.
Working closely with the Technical College System of Georgia and Georgia public health officials, the college determined that it could effectively and safely continue lab-based instruction on campus by adhering to guidelines mapped by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Many of our programs require hands-on training and we’ve continued to deliver that in a safe manner throughout the summer, and will continue to do so in the fall,” said OTC’s President Lori Durden. “It was necessary for our faculty and administration to find ways for students to safely access lab space to practice and assess essential skills. I’m so proud of how quickly our faculty and students adapted to their ‘new normal’ and were able to transition to a hybrid model of learning.”
This educational model has OTC ready for the start of fall semester on Aug. 17 as plans have been made for the college’s entire campus to be reopened and instruction to return to its classrooms. The safety of its students, faculty, staff and the community remains a top priority for Ogeechee Tech, and it has taken several measures to help slow the spread of the virus.
Felicia Barefoot, Ogeechee Tech’s Exposure Control Coordinator, has more than 20 years of experience in public health and has been essential to planning and preparing the college for on-campus instruction.
Measures, including the staggering of lab times and office hours, reductions in class size, plexiglass shields on high-traffic counters and reception areas, as well as limiting the number of occupants in restrooms and meeting spaces, have been implemented. Also, measures have been taken to limit the amount of person-to-person contact for students, staff, and visitors on campus.
In instances where social distancing cannot be maintained, such as Driver’s Education in-car instruction or CDL Training, the college has taken special precautions.
“We require both instructors and students to wear masks, the seats are covered with a disposable plastic covering, and the vehicles are sanitized in-between uses,” Barefoot said.
During the past few months, the limited access to campus has allowed several renovation projects to move forward without interruption. Major construction has been ongoing inside the Joseph E. Kennedy Building to renovate space that will be the new home of OTC’s Practical Nursing program in the fall. Additional space is being renovated to improve and expand the college’s library, giving students more opportunity for private and group workspace as well as additional computer labs.
“Campus operations throughout the pandemic have been, and continue to be fluid as we update our policies based on recommendations from local and national health officials,” Durden said. “The steps we have taken this summer to prepare campus for the fall have put us in a great place to continue to deliver quality technical education to our students, preparing them to enter the workforce.”