DCCC takes proactive measures to prevent virus spread

Lance Ziesch
Dodge City Community College

Since fall classes began on Aug. 12, faculty members at Dodge City Community College have worked diligently to transition their face-to-face classes to a hybrid-flexible (HyFlex) course delivery method to help accommodate students and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“Many schools around the country have modified their instructional methods, remodeled their classrooms, and have even transitioned to a completely online course delivery in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19,” said Kristi Ohlschwager, DCCC assistant vice president of administration and human resources. “Here at DCCC, we are providing a HyFlex class delivery model that allows the students to continue participating in a class via the method that best fits their situation, which can fluctuate and change throughout the semester. “HyFlex instruction also provides a synchronous delivery that incorporates both remote learning and in-person learning—with appropriate social distancing in the classrooms.”

In order to further prevent the spread of COVID-19 on the DCCC campus, all employees, staff and community members now have increased access to personal protective equipment in the form of facial masks, gloves and non-contact thermometers, Ohlschwager said.

In addition, rooms and offices also have been accommodated with Plexiglas dividers for added safety and all students are expected to wear masks in the classrooms and in common areas such as the library or cafeteria.

Any students who do not wish to wear masks will be accommodated either by remote learning or adjusted class periods.

“All students and employees are encouraged to self-screen for symptoms daily before arriving on campus and to stay home if they are feeling sick,” she said. “And non-contact thermometers have been provided campus-wide for individuals to screen as needed.”

If students begin to show symptoms at any point, or if they are exposed to a positive case of COVID-19, they can request transportation to the Western State Bank Expo Center for testing. There they will receive a standard test—or rapid test—pending Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

“While awaiting test results, these students should then self-isolate and continue their coursework remotely until they are cleared otherwise,” Ohlschwager said.

DCCC provides on-campus housing for up to 370 students in its residence halls and is currently housing 282 students. For the students who live on campus, the college has implemented a number of additional protocols to help keep them safe.

“DCCC Residence Life staff members have done an outstanding job working with students and others to ensure that all are safe and the spread of COVID-19 is minimized," said DCCC vice president of student affairs and risk management Jay Kinzer.

Since the students living in the residence halls moved in on Aug. 10, DCCC has seen less than a 5% increase in positive cases, Ohlschwager said. While this increase is to be expected with students returning to campus, the college is taking immediate action to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“The college has responded promptly to these positive cases, and our students are doing well in isolation—both with minimal symptoms and by maintaining their coursework online,” she said. “However, in response to this slight increase, DCCC has suspended athletic and club activities until further notice.”

In addition, she said the college has migrated to only “grab-and-go” meals in the cafeteria, which means students receive a boxed meal that they can take back to their residence halls to eat.

“Resident hall students self-screen daily using an app on their mobile device to report their current health status, which is checked by our athletic training team to help proactively identify potential signs of COVID-19,” Ohlschwager said. “Students exhibiting symptoms are accommodated immediately to self-isolate for an incubation period before receiving testing.”

Regarding COVID-19 testing, Ohlschwager said DCCC recently collaborated with other Kansas community colleges to purchase MAWD Pathology Group’s sputum saliva test, which allows for rapid testing of students and for a faster confirmation of positive results.

“We are committed to the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” Ohlschwager said. “And this commitment started back in March when the college created a COVID-19 response committee.”

The DCCC COVID-19 response committee meets weekly.

It consists of members from across campus ranging from faculty, administration, counselors, health professionals, and even members of the DCCC Board of Trustees.

“The COVID-19 response committee makes cohesive decisions that allow the DCCC campus to continue to provide a quality education while providing a safe and sanitized learning environment,” she said. “The committee’s COVID-19 plan is posted on our website at DCCC.edu.

"Of course, this plan is subject to change at any time due to recommendations from appropriate authorities including the local and state government, the CDC, and the KDHE [Kansas Department of Health and Environment].”

If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the DCCC response committee responds immediately in order to support its team members and students.

“We follow the committee’s established protocols that have been created proactively to protect our students, staff, and faculty. These procedures include disinfecting any associated areas, updating the student’s learning methodologies, reporting necessary information to the Ford County Public Health Department, and to aid the students or staff in immediate contact who may now need to self-isolate,” she said.

Regarding self-isolation, all DCCC polices also are compliant with the guidelines outlined by Ford County, KDHE, and the CDC, Ohlschwager said.

“The college is in constant communication with the Ford County Health Administrator, along with other county officials, to provide updates and to keep them apprised of the DCCC campus,” she said. “We would like to thank them and also thank all of the testing sites across Dodge City for the amazing job that they are doing to serve our community. With their cooperation, we are helping to keep our community members safe and are also minimizing the spread of COVID-19.”