Point of View: Kenai Peninsula College and COVID-19

We don’t like it, but we are doing the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt.

Despite not going out into public like I did pre-pandemic, in my limited interactions with others I’m always asked if Kenai Peninsula College is open and how we’re doing. We are three weeks away from starting our fall semester Aug. 24 and I want everyone to know how KPC is handling the COVID-19 issues and how we will operate this coming semester.

When the pandemic hit, University of Alaska campuses converted virtually all of their classes to online instruction. Most all faculty and staff worked remotely if their job allowed. For those with jobs that required face-to-face interactions, some were furloughed. Much of the same will be true for our fall semester.

The university has identified five COVID phases (A through E with A being the most restrictive). We went to Phase B on June 1, which means “medium risk” and a limited resumption of on-site operations. What does this mean for the fall?

KPC courses will be delivered primarily via distance with a few face-to-face courses, such as small enrollment courses, labs and clinicals.

Per University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, all people entering UAA campuses will be required to wear a face covering if continuous 6-foot social distancing cannot be maintained. We will provide masks to anyone needing one. We understand that some people may have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask so they will be offered a clear plastic face shield. If someone still refuses to wear a mask, they will be informed if there are options to take the class online. Face coverings are required.

People on campus will need to wash their hands when they arrive at campus and when they depart. We will have hand sanitizers available around the campuses. Students taking in-person classes will be expected to sanitize touch surfaces when they get to class and before leaving. These wipes will be in all classrooms.

Facilities departments at both campuses have been and will continue to sanitize the campuses, including regular disinfecting of touch point areas.

We will still provide services to students, such as advising, testing, learning centers, library, tutoring, computer labs, etc., but services will be by appointment only and protective measures will be followed. Most of these services will be conducted via Zoom or phone.

There will be no public events on our campuses due to the social distancing rules and not being able to enforce such restrictions at public events.

While the pandemic has upended all our lives, your college is still open albeit in a different way. We don’t like it, but we are doing the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt. Hopefully the restrictions will relax for the spring semester, but based on how Alaska’s case counts are increasing that may be wishful thinking. Be safe and healthy.

Gary J. Turner has been the director/CEO of Kenai Peninsula College for 18 years. KPC is comprised of the Kenai River Campus in Soldotna, Kachemak Bay Campus in Homer and Resurrection Bay Extension Site in Seward.