Early testing catches cases at ACC

Four asymptomatic students won't be allowed to mix with general population after testing positive. Classes start Monday.

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August 13, 2020 - 10:13 AM

ACC president John Masterson, left, looks over reports with members of the board of trustees. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

The coronavirus dominated discussions at Tuesday night’s meeting of the ACC board of trustees as the college continues to prepare for students returning amidst the pandemic.

The concern is not unwarranted. Early testing has already identified four COVID-19 cases and prevented these students from mixing with the general population.

All four COVID-positive students were asymptomatic, according to president John Masterson.

A sign at the entrance to Allen Community College directs students to coronavirus testing in the gymnasium.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

Two immediately went home to quarantine, and two remained on campus following special safety measures, where their last day in isolation was Wednesday.

According to Masterson, the testing results for students living on campus and involved in athletics were coming back very quickly, and he said he’d been notified in less than 24 hours when positive cases had arisen.

The detected cases also highlight the need for special precautions Allen Community College is taking, including social distancing in classrooms and requiring masks.

Masterson noted he is impressed by how well students are following the rules, saying “the students are coming in compliance” from the moment they arrive.

The college has been fortunate to receive significant financial assistance in its battle against COVID-19 as well.

On Tuesday, Allen County commissioners approved the allocation of $15,000 in CARES Act (SPARK) funds for the college specifically designed to make sure its safety measures are successful and to help ACC not shoulder as great a financial burden from housing fewer students.

Masterson further noted that ACC would receive $312,000 in an additional round of CARES Act funds to buy cleaning supplies, fund health services and stock up on personal protective equipment (PPE).

To reiterate a few closures at the college that will affect the community, the library will be open, but the gymnasium and fitness center remain closed to the public.

The cafeteria will remain closed to the public as well.

The fall semester at ACC begins on Monday.

IN OTHER news, vice president John Marshall said the college had been extending its relationships in the Topeka area, with a special focus on recruiting students who’d lost employment due to COVID-19, or were wary of attending school at a larger campus with a higher student population.

Marshall highlighted some additional changes for the fall semester based on the coronavirus, including expanding the number of office hours that instructors can hold online, and developing a “succession plan” for any faculty or staff member who might become ill and have to quarantine or be hospitalized.

Beyond helping to fight COVID-19, the succession plan has already had one positive outcome, namely, creating a contingency mechanism so that a faculty member could take maternity leave without disrupting her classes.

More generally, enrollment is down at the Iola campus, but at present is less than the original projection of 20%.

It’s unclear at this point, however, just how significant a hit ACC will take financially due to decreased enrollment, as well as what the final percent decrease will be.

GIVEN that the only fall sport scheduled to continue as usual is cross country, ACC has dreamed up various alternative activities for students to participate in.

One includes “Residence Hall Olympics,” where dorms will compete against one another for prizes by playing kickball or answering trivia questions.

Those taking part will receive special tie-dyed bandanas that double as both face coverings as well as markers of pride to represent which team they’re on.

ACC is looking for a new student body president as well, so those interested parties should throw their hats in the ring.

Speaking of engaging activities, trustees approved the purchase of a new lawn mower from Triple K Parts and Services.

The new machine will be a zero-turn Grasshopper that runs at about $11,743.

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