Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Mesalands board talks revised reopening plan


July 29, 2020

The Mesalands Community College board of trustees on July 21 discussed a revised reopening plan, though parts were rendered at least temporarily moot after the governor ordered colleges and universities to start the fall with online learning.

Acting college president Natalie Gillard said the plan was submitted the previous day to the New Mexico Higher Education Department for review. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued an order two days later to require online learning at higher education institutions except for “clinicals, practicum or field-based experiences for critical workforce areas.” A news release stated more detailed plans for colleges and universities would be posted at the HED website sometime this week.

Gillard said Mesalands’ plan was not complete but would be updated frequently “as things change.” She added the plan could change “day by day.”

Board Chairman Jim Streetman said he found no fault with the plan and praised its detail but acknowledged it “will fall short somewhere” because of the evolving pandemic.

“This is new ground we’re treading on,” he added.

The 15-page plan states faculty, staff and students must maintain social distancing, wear a face covering, wash hands frequently, monitor their health daily and clean and disinfect work areas. Those who test positive for COVID-19 must notify their supervisor or personnel specialist.

Faculty and staff who want an exception from facial coverings must contact the personnel specialist; students seeking the exemption must contact the vice president of student affairs.

The plan noted Mesalands would operate at 25% to 50% capacity at the beginning of the fall semester. Those who could work remotely would be allowed to do so unless they are critically needed on campus.

Student housing at Stampede Village would be limited this fall because of the health restrictions. Travel is discouraged during student breaks; those who must have to follow quarantine guidelines afterward.

Employees entering the campus will undergo a daily temperature check and answer questions about possible COVID-19 symptoms.

The college had planned some face-to-face classes when the fall semester begins Aug. 17 but that was rendered moot by Lujan Grisham’s order Thursday. Her order is in effect through Labor Day. Mesalands’ plan contains a mix of face-to-face, online and hybrid classes.

The plan noted the college’s Stampede rodeo team could hold practices this fall with proper social distancing and facial coverings. Intercollegiate fall rodeos have been rescheduled for the spring.

The golf team plans to hold practices this fall with social distancing and face coverings, and a full fall season of meets are planned.

The board also briefly discussed the governor’s letter last week that urged colleges and universities postpone athletic programs, especially contact sports, because of the virus. The board took no action on that matter.

In other business:

• The board approved a new Stampede logo for the college’s sports teams designed by Josh McVey, the college’s director of public relations. It incorporates the college’s basic logo, its bull mascot and school colors. McVey said he collaborated with golf coach Marty Garcia and rodeo coach Matt Hughes on the design, and noted the logo can be used with a variety of backgrounds. All three board members voiced their approval of the design before voting on it.

• The board voted to authorize Gillard and Hammer to check into the possibility of the college using virtual credit cards for purchases. Larry Wickham, director of information technology, said in a presentation Visa cards through Privacy.com contain more security and can be single-use. Wickham said the Mesalands business office would have more control over such cards. Hammer voiced one misgiving — the cards would require additional steps to process.

Streetman voiced his support of the proposal, noting many Mesalands employees were forced to use personal credit cards for purchases and it “missed out on discounts” because the college lacked its own cards.

“We need to look at this really hard,” he said.

Gillard said she would see what other colleges use the virtual cards and whether they would meet the requirement’s of Mesalands’ auditor.

• Aaron Kennedy, vice president of student affairs, reported the college’s headcount, hours and full-time equivalency of students each fell by nearly 25% during the spring semester. Streetman expressed anxiety about future enrollments because of COVID-19. Kennedy responded: “We’ll do our best for fall.”

• The board approved a budget adjustment during the 2020-2021 year of more than $401,000 in state appropriations cuts during the New Mexico Legislature’s special session in June. Hammer stated Mesalands had “no choice in the matter.”

• The board approved these purchase requisitions for the 2021 fiscal year: $161,332 for risk insurance from New Mexico Public Schools Insurance Authority; $78,000 for electricity from Xcel; $24,000 for water, sewer and trash service from city of Tucumcari; $24,000 for natural gas from New Mexico Gas Co.; $24,000 in internet service from Plateau Wireless; $28,000 for leases on four copiers and service from Ricoh Americas Corp.; $599,120. 11 in general-obligation bonds for campus improvements to AUI Inc.; $96,280 for college’s master plan by Parkhill Smith and Cooper of Amarillo with Cooperative Education Services.

• The board held a closed executive session for less than 10 minutes to discuss limited personnel matters or real-estate dealings and took no action when open session resumed. The college later scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday to hold another closed executive session regarding personnel matters.


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