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Student Services Fights Covid-19

This article was written by SCC student Tyler Scott.

No one can argue that America is going through unprecedented and frightening times. An unseen enemy is quickly making its way through the general public, often leaving behind great illness and, unfortunately, even death. Fortunately for those attending Sandhills Community College, the faculty and staff have been doing all they can to keep students safe.

“The safety of our students is our top priority,” said Kellie Shoemake, vice president of Student Services.

According to Shoemake, as soon as it became clear in March 2020 that the coronavirus was going to be a major issue, the senior administration began meeting multiple times a week in order to decide on how to best keep students safe during those deeply troubled times. The decision was initially made, as it was in so many schools, to close on campus operations and move all classes onto the internet. However, that was always going to be a temporary patch on the problem.

During the campus’s time of being closed to the general public, discussions went on between the senior administration and both the NC system office (coordinates all 58 community colleges in the state) and the health department. It took many hours and several meetings among the staff and administration, but methods for best keeping students safe on campus were devised. Since July 2020, the main campus has been back in operation with the new disease spreading prevention procedures having taken effect.

Part of the new measures included putting together a new staff team and creating a new job position. The Communicable Disease Team is dedicated to following the evolution of the virus in America and, based on that information, making recommendations to the college administration about new procedures or how to better refine old ones. The team consists of six staff members including the Department Chair for the college’s Nursing program and the college’s Contact Tracing staff member. The Contact Tracing position is a new one created in response to Covid-19,  filled by Joe Steppe. Steppe keeps alert for all new cases of Covid-19 that appear on campus. His job is to ensure that anyone who is confirmed to have the disease remains away from the campus until such time as they have recovered and no longer pose a biological threat to others. He also follows up on the occurrence of the disease and determines whether it has been spread around the campus or was simply an isolated incident.

Hopefully, the follow-up is only a precautionary measure as SCC is very careful about keeping students safe from the spreading of Covid-19. Sanitation has been ramped up like never before as Steppe assures the students that deep cleans of the entire campus are happening every night. Beyond the night work, doorknobs and counters are disinfected twice a day and REME-HALOS (in-duct air-purifiers) have been installed to make sure all air in the campus buildings is purified at all times.

Of course, an important question is not only what is being mandated but also how the students are accepting the mandates. Both Shoemake and Steppe are pleased with the compliance they have received from students. Steppe especially has said that the students have been very good about working with him and informing him of symptoms they have that may possibly denote an exposure to Covid-19. Henry Baker, an employee of Boyd Library and a student at SCC, has expressed his assurance that, as both an enforcer of the Covid-19 procedures and as someone among peers who must follow the procedures, he has only witnessed an air of compliance and understanding. There may perhaps be a little mild annoyance about masks being constricting but that is the extent of any pushback that he has seen. Baker himself is very pleased with the work that the college is doing and has found them to be very accommodating in helping students who have to miss classes due to quarantining.

At the end of the day, the faculty and staff at SCC are doing what they can to help the college move forward in educating young adults as this frightening pandemic continues to ravage the world. Shoemake and Steppe both hope that the pandemic will one day come to an end and education can one day continue with full classes and no masks, but, until that fabled time, they are committed to keeping the students at SCC as safe as they can possibly be. Yes, students can rest assured that the staff and faculty at SCC have their best interests at heart.

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