What we’ve learned from the pandemic | KCTCS

What we’ve learned from the pandemic

by Dr. Kris Williams, Chancellor - March 29, 2021

The last year has been a long and stressful one for the students, faculty and staff, of the 16 colleges of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. It’s also taken a toll on the communities we serve. We will continue to deal with the effects of the pandemic for some time to come. We need time to mourn those who have been lost to us. We have lost close time with family and friends, lost jobs, lost opportunities. Still…

We have taught and we have learned, we have persevered, we have overcome, and we have become stronger and more resilient. We have challenged ourselves to create new ways and new opportunities.

Last year, March roared in as the COVID 19 pandemic truly hit Kentucky. Friday the 13th brought news of changes needed to help people stay healthy. The following week, Colleges swiftly began moving to online and remote classes with limited campus access. Only designated personnel were to be on campuses; other staff would work from home. Our continuing learn remote/work remote experience was well underway, from #SuddenlyRemote to #KCTCSTogether and #HealthyatKCTCS.

We settled in as a system of Colleges focused on supporting our students, our communities, and each other. Quickly, faculty who had never taught remote were provided support and mentoring. Student services transitioned to virtual access. Faculty created new ways to engage their students—from Culinary faculty meeting students in parking lots to hand over food for virtual cooking labs to other faculty accepting assignments sent in via texted phone images from students with no other technology or internet access. Colleges created ways to provide students continuing access to food pantries, to tutoring, to emergency funds.

Internet access was provided through wi-fi in College parking lots and students were loaned computers and hotspots. Campus staff constructed safer classrooms, labs, and support stations following social/physical distancing guidelines. Everyone got used to wearing a mask or face covering. Strategic communications plans were rolled out. Staff developed digital document management strategies and kept up the administrative services needed to keep the institutions on track. Donors stepped up to support students in need.

In their communities, Colleges strengthened medical efforts by 3-D printing face shields; donating all available personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns, and gloves; and lending ventilators to hospitals. Fire Commission and KBEMS staff helped on the front lines with emergency management services.

Over the months, College faculty and staff have worked through virtual and drive-through registrations, classes and graduations and are safely helping students complete lab classes and clinical experiences. Workforce Solutions staff are again providing business and industry with training, employee assessments, and other services. Apprentices go to work and learn in class. Dual credit students earn transfer credits for College or university. SkillsU adult education students can earn their GEDs. Virtual and on-ground student, business, and Technology Solutions services are available. We are looking forward to summer and fall classroom learning while still offering online and hybrid courses.

Each of our Colleges is part of the fabric of its region and shares the culture of its community. The System Office serves as the center. We are united in our commitment to making life better for our students, our communities, and the citizens of Kentucky.

As more and more people are vaccinated, we will have a new beginning, where we can take what we learned during the pandemic and continue our work together in new ways. We will continue to be #KCTCSTogether and #HealthyatKCTCS while also being #KCTCSProud of everything our students, our communities, and our Colleges have accomplished.