COVID corrals ACC discussion

College's outreach center in Burlingame is in danger of closing as enrollment decreases and coronavirus increases the challenges.

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September 10, 2020 - 10:41 AM

Allen Community College

“The kids are just amazing to me,” said ACC president John Masterson, speaking in reference to students being mindful of COVID-19.

“I’m really pleased with how serious they’re taking everything.”

Masterson also seemed pleased that additional virus testing resources would likely soon be available, as the college has already been successful in catching and quarantining 12 cases thus far.

Those interested in learning more about ACC’s plan for responding to COVID-19 can go to the college’s new website, and click on the informational tabs.

Campus visits are still being conducted at this time, though prospective students are not being allowed in the residence halls.

In contrast to the above relatively good news, it seems one casualty of COVID-19 might be the college’s outreach center in Burlingame.

The center’s enrollments had already been down in recent years, due to gas prices and other factors, and the impact of the novel coronavirus may be the knock-out blow.

Hence it remains to be seen whether ACC will renew its building contract in Burlingame, and if the college will look to find another outreach location moving forward.

“It’s a big one. It’s an important conversation,” said Masterson.

“It’s like breaking up with someone you’re still fond of.”

On the athletics side, Doug Desmarteau highlighted everything coaches and athletes were doing to stay healthy.

As the situation has proceeded well so far, the athletes will also start scrimmaging amongst themselves without leaving campus.

A single positive test, however, has the power to stop a given scrimmage in its tracks, and no outside fans will be allowed to attend games.

Despite the precariousness of the situation, Desmarteau emphasized that he thought keeping the athletes active was crucial for motivation and staying focused.

Desmarteau also went out of his way to quell rumors that ACC athletes had been causing problems at local gyms.

He read a text message from one manager who said that students had “been nothing but courteous,” and that certain cantankerous community members were actually the ones responsible for problematic behaviors.

During his board report, vice president John Marshall said that ACC is taking the initiative to improve psychological health services to everyone across the college community.

He said that multiple instructors, especially, had expressed an interest in learning what resources existed so that students could be directed to them and receive help.

Marshall also noted that the college is looking to increasingly have a physical presence in the community, whether through internships, volunteering and so on.

He also said the ACC bookstore has a whole new line of Red Devil products, including masks and other swag.

More generally, enrollments are down due to COVID-19, said vice president Cynthia Jacobson, but only about 7%, which is considerably lower than the projected 20%.

In terms of the college’s finances, it seems the brightest note is that ACC will receive significant CARES Act/SPARK funds, and the darkest is the state of Kansas’ massive budget shortfall.

Loren and Matt Korte from PSI Insurance provided an overview for the board of the college’s insurance policies, which included everything sort of an extinction-level meteorite.

A couple noteworthy numbers were that ACC has $5 million in earthquake insurance, since quakes typically cause a total loss, and the college’s combined premium is $136, 923.

An interesting question that arose, which many businesses, etc., are asking, is how to protect the college from liability regarding cases of COVID-19.

In response, Korte said that claims of this kind are difficult to prove, and so haven’t been much of an issue.

Masterson spoke highly of ACC’s relationship with PSI and Korte, and said he especially appreciated an insurance agent who was a true partner.

Regarding insurance of a different kind, Masterson praised the college’s new security cameras and other equipment.

“If you walk around here, you’re on camera!” he said.

Board members had the opportunity to meet Kinsey Stuewe, the new student body president.

The key message she delivered on behalf of students seemed to be: “Please don’t send us home.”

Given this desire, Stuewe and others throughout the evening highlighted how willing students have been to take COVID-related precautions.

One message coaches are sharing with their athletes is: “It’s in your hands.” In other words, whether or not the college will remain open depends on if people take the virus seriously.

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