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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Campuses transition to online for students, staff

Photo+by+Brooke+Baldwin%2FThe+Collegian+Board+member+Bill+Greenhill%2C+chancellor+Eugene+Giovannini%2C+board+president+Conrad+Heede%2C+and+board+member+Kenneth+Barr+meet+Thursday+evening+to+discuss+the+needs+of+the+college+during+the+Coronavirus+situation.+
Photo by Brooke Baldwin/The Collegian Board member Bill Greenhill, chancellor Eugene Giovannini, board president Conrad Heede, and board member Kenneth Barr meet Thursday evening to discuss the needs of the college during the Coronavirus situation.
Photo by Brooke Baldwin/The Collegian Board member Bill Greenhill, chancellor Eugene Giovannini, board president Conrad Heede, and board member Kenneth Barr meet Thursday evening to discuss the needs of the college during the Coronavirus situation.
March 24, 2020 | Jill Bold | editor in chief

A total shutdown of campuses and district facilities was enacted soon after a shelter-in-place order was issued Tuesday afternoon for Tarrant County. 

Students had until 5 p.m. March 24 to vacate campus and faculty and staff had until 9 p.m. to retrieve any items from campus. Certain technical programs were still scheduled to continue in person until this decision was announced.

It was part of the new reality that set in as TCC campuses closed up shop and all classes transitioned to an online format in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision capped a week where students were given a second week of spring break. Administrators originally gave faculty the choice to either keep classes in person or move them online. Even after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order closing schools and forbidding groups of 10 or more, TCC was preparing to open its doors Monday morning.

That decision changed after an online backlash on TCC’s social media. The college announced on its Twitter account before 6 p.m. Friday that the school would be shut down for the time being.

“Beginning Monday, Tarrant County College courses will be delivered online,” the college’s tweet said. “A minimum number of technical programs will require adjustment in delivery to address student health and safety based on the most recent CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines. Campuses will only be accessible to the few students associated with those technical programs and limited staff.”

All campuses were scheduled to reopen Monday despite concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, according to an announcement earlier in the day by Chancellor Eugene Giovannini. 

Instructors in all courses were given the option to conduct classes online to keep gatherings to a minimum, but labs and other services were set to be open on all campuses, according to the announcement emailed to the TCC community Friday morning.

The decision seemed to conflict with Abbott’s order and was met with opposition as many complaints were registered on the school’s Facebook and Twitter posts.

“Out of curiosity – can a school be liable for students infecting family members with a likely deadly virus after they force students to come to class under quarantine?” one person said in a reply to TCC’s Facebook post.

Other commenters expressed apprehension about returning to classrooms.

“I’m immunocompromised AND pregnant. How can TCC expect us to put our lives at risk?” another person commented.

Reginald Gates, vice chancellor for communication and external affairs, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Hours before the governor’s order was handed down Thursday, TCC’s board of trustees met to address the needs of the college during this time of social distancing and self-isolation.

Giovannini submitted a resolution to the board in response to the ever-changing coronavirus situation which “grants authority to the chancellor, until July 1, 2020, to establish rules and procedures he deems necessary and appropriate to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to facilitate the continuity of the district’s operations during the state of emergency and its aftermath.”

The spread of the coronavirus has led to federal, state and local authorities to declare a state of emergency, district associate general counsel Carol Bracken said. 

“A robust response by the district may require operational adjustments that are different from the standard policies established by the board of trustees in order to facilitate a flexible and timely response to changing conditions,” Bracken said.

The resolution called for the chancellor to report to the board what actions he has taken in the first board meeting after July 1. However, board member Diane Patrick asked that this resolution be amended to have the chancellor report monthly to the board starting in April. 

At each board meeting, any changes that the chancellor put in place would be ratified, chief operating officer Susan Alanis said. The amended resolution passed unanimously.

Public comment from Arlington ISD educator Ian Pierce, whose wife is a former South Campus library employee, came via telephone. He expressed concern about TCC’s decision to have the staff continue to attend work despite students and faculty having the option to stay away from campus.

“For the safety of everyone, TCC should employ a full shutdown,” Pierce said. “If my wife were still employed by TCC, I would not want her going to work.”

He said his worry extends to the older relatives they come in contact with as well as immuno-compromised friends and family that need protection from exposure. He cited Abbott’s recommendation to shut down nonessential businesses and services and schools as support for his argument.

“I would urge TCC to take the time to consider this decision and shut down the campus in full and not require staff members to come to work,” Pierce said.

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