DCC works to meet students’ needs despite COVID-19

Brendan Heidner
Thursday, March 19, 2020

In response to COVID-19, Dawson Community College works to follow recommendations for mitigating the spread of the virus without eliminating care for students’ needs.

Concern for COVID-19 rapidly grew over DCC’s scheduled spring break from March 9-13 with classes expected to resume March 16. With not enough time to prepare for the unsuspected pandemic before students returned, spring break was extended an additional week.

A response team of faculty members at DCC was formed in order to keep up with the constant release of updates on COVID-19.

“We meet every morning at eight o’ clock and we talk about things that happened yesterday, things that maybe occurred over the night and then what our response is going to be to them,” DCC President Scott Mickelsen said.

Once the response team has had the briefing for the day, updates are sent out to all faculty, staff and students by text and email in order to keep everyone informed on the everchanging situation at hand.

Mickelsen also added the response team is establishing a list of “essential staff” - key people who are needed to keep campus operating smoothly - in case DCC needs to limit the number of people on campus at one time.

COVID-19 continues to affect DCC’s class schedules, sports and plans as the semester progresses.

Mickelsen said all classes will move to online instruction as they are able.

“Our welding class is going to resume as a welding instruction in a lab,” Mickelsen said. “It’s a little more open, open doors to outside air.”

However, Mickelsen added this poses an issue for one student from Canada. Due to stricter border control, they are unable to return to the United States.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to help him get finished,” he said.

Although officials plan to keep classes running remotely as of now, it is possible DCC cuts the semester short to end on April 25.

If it is recommended that that take place, Mickelsen said the DCC Board of Trustees will weigh-in on that decision.

However, either decision will affect the graduating class of 2020.

If the spring semester is cut short, Mickelsen noted graduation will likely be cancelled.

Should remote classes continue, it is possible graduation still takes place, however the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends no large group meetings until eight weeks from now which, according to Mickelsen is a week before the scheduled graduation date. That could change as well.

“If that date gets pushed for large group meetings, that would cancel graduation as well,” he said.

Whether or not the semester is shortened, the scheduled move out date of May 15 will remain to allow students from farther away ample time to make arrangements with parents.

Mickelsen added that fact will most likely not change, however, may be extended depending on any student’s moving situation.

“(We are) just trying to do everything we can to be accommodating with everything that’s going on,” Mickelsen said.

As for sports, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJ-CAA) released on their website they cancelled all sports for the remainder of the spring season by recommendation of the CDC.

“Can’t practice, can’t recruit, you can’t even have communication with potential recruits, I mean it is stopped 100% right now,” Mickelsen said.

Despite the cancellation of oncampus classes and sporting events, a few facilities and services will remain available for students and the community.

Food service will continue to operate for the students who choose to stay on campus for the remainder of the semester.

“Students can come in for breakfast and then if they don’t want to come in for lunch or dinner just because of the potential of the exposure, they can grab sandwiches and things and take back to their room,” Mickelsen said. The Toepke Center will stay open

The Toepke Center will stay open for students and the community to utilize the walking track and weight and cardio rooms, but Buc’s Brew and the DCC Bookstore are closed until further notice.

According to Mickelsen, it is expected the height of the impact for the area may not come until the end of April and into May so he is working with everyone at DCC to prepare for whatever may come.

“We maybe haven’t even seen the worst of it yet so trying to keep things kind of confined here,” Mickelsen said.

He added they will continue to monitor the situation and as it progresses, react accordingly to ultimately protect students, faculty, their families and the community of Glendive.

Reach Brendan Heidner at news@ rangerreview.com.

Three DCC employees are under self-quarantine

By Brendan Heidner Ranger-Review Staff Writer

After discovering the Montana Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian tested positive for COVID-19, two Dawson Community College staff members who had been in close proximity with Christian were immediately self-quarantined.

The two employees from DCC were at a Board of Regents meeting in Dillon on March 5 and 6 where it is suspected Christian was exposed to the virus.

At the time there were not confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montana.

A week later, DCC President Scott Mickelsen was notified of Christian’s case of COVID-19 and began immediate communication with those who attended the meeting.

“When we found out that Clay had tested positive, I contacted both of them and told them that they need to quarantine themselves,” Mickelsen said.

He went on to add after notifying those two, all other faculty and students were given notice of the presumptive exposure the following day.

One DCC faculty member showed possible symptoms of the virus Monday. Mickelsen added that employee went in for tests and is in self-quarantine. That employee did not attend the Board of Regents meeting.

“The first two, they’ll be quarantined until the 20th, the last one was just recently, they need to stay quarantined for 14 days,” Mickelsen said. “Then if they are positive, the quarantine is 30 days.”

Currently, Mickelsen noted they are awaiting test results for all three DCC employees.

However inconvenient to operate without those employees on campus, they are still making an effort to assist DCC in any way possible from home, Mickelsen added.

“We’re not missing a step,” Mickelsen said. “At our meetings, we have call in numbers so they call into those meetings so they are still part of the decisions.”

Communications through text and email also take place to keep everyone informed, especially as two of the three DCC employees quarantined are part of what Mickelsen refers to as the response team for COVID-19.

Reach Brendan Heidner at news@rangerreview.com.