Students at South Arkansas Community College adjust to a new way of learning

Arkansas News

EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — School is back in session at South Arkansas Community College but classes will look different during this pandemic.

It’s the first week of classes and despite Covid-19 some students are excited to have some sort of normalcy.

“It’s good to be back on campus and around people and not stuck in the house all the time,” Darbee Forte said.

Campus staff and faculty spent the summer exploring ways to provide students with a quality education while keeping them safe.

Students are still offered traditional ways of learning through in-person or online classes but the school added a hybrid model where large classes are split into smaller sizes.

Half of the class is one classroom and the other half is in another classroom with the instructor engaging with the students through Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate.

“Through that distance mechanism, we can still connect with our students and still maintain the social distancing that we need in our classrooms,” President of South Ark, Dr. Bentley Wallace said.

They also give students the option to join those classes from home if they can’t come to class or must quarantine.

“What the pandemic has forced us to do is to find creative solutions to continue education and instruction while keeping students, faculty and staff safe through appropriate use of masks and through social distancing while they’re on campus,” Dr. Wallace said.

Students are adjusting to change with their expectations of college being different than what they initially imagined.

“It’s a lot to get used. It’s just something new we’re going to have to get used to see how it goes,” freshman student, Austin Nixon said.

Students and faculty are required to wear masks inside the buildings and if distancing can’t be maintained outside.

There are multiple signs posted on doors and around campus to remind staff, students and community visitors of the college’s policy.

South Ark received funding from the CARES Act. Some of that funding went towards purchasing protective equipment for teachers and other faculty as well as for cleaning supplies.

The college bought special equipment to ensure classrooms and other areas around campus are cleaned thoroughly each night.

Dr. Wallace believes those attending, working and visiting the college have a responsibility to keep everyone safe.

“As students come into the classroom, we have disinfectant wipes. We have hand sanitizer. They can wiped down their desk area, their chair, anything they might touch in the classroom and again as they’re leaving,” Dr. Wallace said. “As a new class rotates in and everybody has a chance to do their part to help keep the space clean.”

There are even precautions taken in place inside elevators. Wipes and a small trash can basket sit in the corner for those to use when touching the elevator buttons.

“Does campus look exactly the same. No. But are we still providing a safe opportunity for education. We are,” Dr. Wallace said.

Students on campus seemed to be taking it all in and believe the college is doing a great job at keeping them safe.

“If I’m able to go to Wal Mart and go grocery shopping I feel like I should be able to go to class and there are a lot more parameters here than out in the public,” Nixon said.

Although this covid semester will be a challenge, students say it’s up to them to get through it.

“I think it’s self-discipline. We can’t rely on each other anymore for help,” Forte said. “We can barely even be next to each other. So, you have to want it deep down inside.”

The last day to register for the fall semester is August 21.

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