Superintendents for schools near the Burlingame campus of Allen Community College had a surprising request: Let our kids attend in person.
ACC administrators including President John Masterson, Jon Marshall and Cynthia Jacobson met with the superintendents of several schools on Feb. 16 to talk about ways to improve the Burlingame campus.
The satellite campus has been beleaguered by low enrollment numbers over the past decade, and the meeting was intended to improve outreach.
The superintendents want to set up a program where college-bound students could attend classes in the mornings for general education classes such as English and speech. Currently, some schools offer dual-credit classes at their respective high schools, so this would differ by transporting those students to the Burlingame campus instead.
They envision it similar to the way students travel for Career and Technical Education courses, such as welding or automotive repair. Many students in those school districts travel to a tech center in Topeka in the afternoons; that same transportation program could be used in the mornings to take students to Burlingame.
“It doesn’t eliminate the problem but it’s a good first start,” Masterson said. “I really appreciated the cooperative feeling we got from the superintendents. They’re interested in making sure we stick around.”
On ACC’s side, it would require a scheduling change.
The college would offer two one-hour classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and other classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students could earn between 12 and 15 college credit hours each semester, and would be eligible for scholarships to offset the costs.
That’s different from the block classes now typically offered at Burlingame, which might teach a three-hour class on Mondays. It isn’t practical for a high school student to attend a three-hour class one day a week; they need a more traditional schedule.
Masterson noted the program could also encourage older adults to take advantage of the classes.
Participating superintendents came from Burlingame, Lyndon, Marais Des Cygnes Valley, Osage City and Mission Valley-Eskridge districts.
Marshall noted it can be difficult for smaller schools to offer the same level of dual-credit college classes as larger schools, so this gives them more options.
The administrators planned to continue to examine the proposal. Board members were supportive.
Allen Community College students, faculty and visitors are no longer required to wear face masks as COVID-19 cases have dropped throughout the county and region.
The college board of trustees approved a change to its pandemic plan at a meeting on Tuesday evening.
As long as the COVID-19 risk to the county remains low, the college campus will not require the masks. Should that risk increase, college administrators can require them again.
Signs across campus will be changed to “Masks welcome” rather than “Masks required.”
ACC does not have any active COVID cases among students or faculty, Jacobson noted.
Travel has returned as well, noted Tosca Harris, dean for academic affairs. ACC is traveling to contests and events, and is back to hosting such activities as well.
Marshall reviewed the college’s accreditation requirements, something he said needs to be shared with the board every couple of years.
The pandemic upended many of ACC’s plans, but now as the pandemic wanes it’s a good time to look at where the college stands with its accreditation.
First, he talked to the board about what accreditation means and why it’s important. ACC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, which oversees colleges in 19 states across the Midwest.
Accreditation is important because it allows students to access federal financial aid. It also ensures credits will transfer when students change schools.
“Both of these things are tremendously important to our college,” he said. “It’s unbelievably serious.”
That’s why ACC works so hard to meet accreditation requirements, he said.
The accreditation process requires the school to meet five areas of criteria: mission; integrity and ethical conduct; teaching and learning through quality resources and support; teaching and learning through evaluation and improvement; and institutional effectiveness, which includes a strategic plan and finances.
Each of those areas have a total of 54 components and subcomponents and must be evaluated, improved and reviewed on a regular basis, about every two to four years. The accreditation cycle runs for about 10 years and was last approved in 2018.
The next review is due in 2023.
Because the pandemic delayed or changed some of those processes, Marshall is looking for ways to make small changes in a timely fashion.
For example, one suggestion given to ACC by the peer review team was to paint the mission statement on hallway or classroom walls.
Instead, Marshall said, ACC faculty can include the mission statement in email taglines. That will show the school takes the recommendation seriously and has adapted it in some fashion.
IN OTHER news, ACC trustees:
• Heard a maintenance report for several important improvements to the HVAC system, a new boiler, improvements to the baseball and softball fields, and more.
• Approved requests to continue participation in Neighborhood Revitalization Programs for area communities.
• Got an update on course development for the summer and fall.
• Learned about a grant application with Thrive Allen County that would focus on training and investing in the existing workforce to create new jobs in the areas of technology, healthcare, manufacturing and education. The grant could provide up to $2 million over five years to develop those programs. The grant is due later this month and results will be announced in the summer.