Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Mesalands approves COVID-19 reopening plan


May 27, 2020

The Mesalands Community College board of trustees approved a COVID-19 reopening plan adopted from a proposal by the New Mexico Higher Education Department that includes multiple phases and a mix of in-person and online classes in August.

The college’s acting president, Natalie Gillard, said during the board’s May 19 videoconference meeting the agency’s plan was “complete, thorough and flexible” and can be adopted for Mesalands. She said it had been drafted with the input of presidents of colleges and universities across the state. Mesalands has been closed except for online classes and work since early April because of the pandemic.

Amanda Hammer, vice president of administrative affairs, agreed with Gillard’s assessment of the plan.

“This will work pretty well, in our opinion,” she said.

Gillard acknowledged the pandemic contained “unknowns,” and the college might have to “fall back” to one of the earlier phases if a local outbreak of the virus occurred.

The plan includes three phases. Phase 1 would consist of mostly online classes, campus visits by appointment only, limited operations and services with no events. Gillard said it’s anticipated the first phase would last from now through June.

Phase 2 includes online classes with limited hybrid options; essential labs and small classes; limited campus services; small gatherings with guidelines; and preparing the campus for a fall opening. That phase is projected to last from July through part of August.

Phase 3 would begin sometime in August and continue until a coronavirus vaccine is developed, which a timeline for that remains unknown. It includes a mix of in-person and online classes and operations; limits in the capacity of class sizes and labs; protocols for dormitories, food services and retail operations; and following recommendations from national associations, conferences and state authorities regarding events, activities and athletics.

The report states among the issues colleges and universities will face include financial challenges because of higher expenses from safety commitments, reducing workers’ risk of exposure to the virus, how to address absenteeism, changes in expectations, interrupted supplies, employee training and possible trauma.

Board members Teresa Stephenson and Jimmy Sandoval liked the plan, though Stephenson said there is “so much to consider” with it. Stephenson, Sandoval and board President Jim Streetman voted to approve the plan. Board members Craig Currell and Liz Estrada were absent.

In other business:

n Gillard said the college would hold a virtual spring commencement ceremony at 4 p.m. May 30. The graduation event will be streamed lived on Mesalands’ YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/mesalands.

n The board tabled a possible purchase of a pickup truck for the college’s rodeo team. Gillard said the team needs a large enough truck to haul livestock and a large trailer to competitions.

Hammer said the team had money left over from the cancellation of rodeos this spring due to COVID-19. She said the college had been talking about acquiring a truck for years, and a student who had hauled livestock to meets no longer was with the college.

Streetman said he favored a new vehicle instead of a used one. He said he didn’t want students stranded in the heat or cold because of breakdown.

The college received a bid from Tillery Chevrolet in Moriarty for a 2020 or 2021 four-wheel drive Chevrolet Silverado for a discounted Cooperative Educational Services price of $46,611. It also received a bid from Doug Gray Chevrolet Buick GMC in Elk City, Oklahoma, for a 2017 Dodge Ram with 79,000 miles on it for $38,500.

Streetman urged the board to table to the matter until its June meeting because it was uncertain whether a new vehicle could be delivered before the end of the fiscal year June 30. Hammer said leftover funds from the rodeo team would roll over to the next fiscal year. There also was a lack of clarity in the Tillery bid whether the new vehicle was a 2020 or 2021 model.

n Aaron Kennedy, vice president of student affairs, said the college had held no events for summer and fall enrollment because of the pandemic. He said Mesalands was using volunteers to call current and dual-credit students and asking them to re-enroll. Kennedy said the college also compiled a recruiting list of 1,400 prospects volunteers soon would contact. The college also is holding marketing meetings each Tuesday to discuss recruitment efforts.


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