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PRCC making plans to return in fall

Athletes returning to the Pearl River Community College campus in July will be the first students to experience life on campus with new public health measures due to COVID-19.

Exactly what those measures will look like is still being determined, said PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood, but he expects many of the public health measures will be familiar to students: practicing social distancing, wearing face masks and having their temperature checked. The college will follow any guidelines it is given by the CDC or the Governor of Mississippi.

One of the questions still being discussed is how often and where temperature checks should be implemented. Checking the temperature of every student every day would be near impossible, said Breerwood, but checks may be implemented on different parts of campus, especially for dorm students when they first come back to campus in the fall.

The return of athletes and band students to the Poplarville campus will give the school an opportunity for a test run of COVID-19 prevention measures before the fall semester begins, said Breerwood.

PRCC will be offering its classes in person in the fall semester, along with its normal online options.

“For those students that want it, we’re offering everything face to face,” said Breerwood. “We’re going full tilt in August, but we’re also cognitive of the fact that there may still be adjustments.”

The college was forced to switch to almost all online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the middle of the most recent spring semester.

“Within days we were challenged with that,” said Breerwood.

Students in programs that had to meet in person for hands on learning, like welding, allied health, nursing and career tech students, were able to complete their programs by meeting in small groups, said Breerwood. Some cosmetology and barbering students are still finishing hours for the spring semester.

Everyone at the college has a better understanding of the importance of online education, said Breerwood. Faculty and staff can expect more training on online teaching in the fall semester. Even after the pandemic is in the past, Breerwood expects the flexibility to move online when necessary to become the norm in education, especially in a region where severe weather events like hurricanes are a concern.

Class sizes should remain the same in the fall semester, although the rooms may look different, said Breerwood. Teachers may have some kind of physical barrier, like plexiglass, to teach behind. Classes might be offered with a hybrid virtual and in-person model, where a student attends one class session in person and the next session virtually.

Although exactly what the classroom will look like in the fall semester is unclear, it is clear that students want to return to a physical campus. There are 700 people on the waitlist for the PRCC dorms.

“I thought we would have less people wanting to stay in the dorms or our waiting list go down. It’s almost the opposite. I think people are wanting to get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Breerwood.