Stevani Flahaut's college experience is not one of living on a picturesque campus, rubbing elbows with fellow students fresh out of high school.
A 27-year-old attending Austin Community College, the aspiring restaurateur weaves together a full-time course load and two jobs. While community colleges are sometimes perceived as the stepchildren of higher education, to nearly 700,000 Texans like Flahaut, they are hard-fought professional stepping stones, an avenue for the aspirations of working parents or older students.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it wasn’t just these students’ education that was upended, but often their entire lives.
“Our students are not your average college students,” said Jan McCauley, a political science professor at Tyler Junior College. “Most of them are working. Many of them are parents. Now, they’re at home and having to teach kids online.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the U.S., and it became clear that it would require a massive shift in day-to-day life, higher education responded quickly. Most colleges and universities quickly extended spring breaks, evaluated the options for educational continuity and, ultimately, transitioned the majority of instruction online for the remainder of the spring semester.
Making such a rapid and massive shift wasn’t easy for anyone. For community colleges, however, it was an especially challenging undertaking. Many community college students do not have access to laptops at home, or they might rely on their colleges for Wi-Fi access.
“Community colleges serve the majority of underrepresented students in the United States,” says Martha Parham, senior vice president of public relations for the American Association of Community Colleges. In addition to technology inequities
In a single week, the district of 80,000-plus students toggled from a brick-and-mortar operation to a 100-percent online institution of higher ed.
District Chief Innovation Officer Tim Marshall said it was no small feat moving the entire district online. Prior to COVID-19, about 40 percent of the district’s students had taken at least one online course while enrolled, according to district information.
“We had to rapidly convert thousands of course sections from face-to-face to online, including configuring our online Learning Management System to allow more than 60,000 students and hundreds of faculty to transition,” he wrote in an email to the Dallas Regional Chamber. “Part of the transition was training more than 200 faculty who had
Lone Star College-Kingwood is helping support local hospitals during the novel coronavirus pandemic by loaning eight ventilators, five nebulizers and 75 personal protective equipment kits.
Houston Methodist Baytown received three ventilators, CHI St. Luke’s in the Woodlands received two ventilators and HCA Houston Healthcare Kingwood received two ventilators, one neonatal ventilator and 75 PPE kits. The five nebulizers have also been distributed among the three locations, which turn liquid asthma medicine into a fine mist that is inhaled through the lungs, whereas ventilators pump air into the lungs through a tube inserted into a patient’s windpipes. Patients who need a ventilator because of a severe illness, such as the coronavirus, are cared for in a hospital’s intensive care unit.
Community colleges are urged to donate respiratory masks, gloves and other protective equipment from their health-related classes to local hospitals and other healthcare facilities that are scrambling to find enough supplies in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
“With the pandemic spreading, the need for PPE is becoming more critical,” OADN said. “No healthcare provider should be forced to reuse or make their own PPE equipment, thus putting themselves and other individuals at risk.”