Good afternoon, Forsyth Tech Family,
As we finish the first week of our expanded spring break, I want to reassure you that Forsyth Tech is doing everything possible to help maintain the health and safety of our college community while trying to alleviate as much of the students’ and employees’ worry and stress as possible.
We recognize we’ve never faced a pandemic of this magnitude in our lifetime and we are in a critical moment in history. However, if we are to help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it is our responsibility to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, and state and federal recommendations to protect our campus community, friends and families.
In the meantime, please let me share a handful of updates with you in this email.
We’re Open – but mostly Online & Over the Phone
At this point, the status of the College remains open. However, we continue to offer all services online or over the phone, with very limited offerings face-to-face. We’re maintaining a list of these services online. We have asked all employees who can work remotely to do so.
As you know, we were already planning to transition the vast majority of our classes to online or remote formats as of March 30, at the conclusion of our expanded spring break. However, in response to this crisis, the North Carolina Community College System office is now formally requiring that we now pause all face-to-face classes, and move those classes online for remote learning.
I appreciate all of you who have been and will continue to work diligently toward that transition, and our plan is that instructors will reach out to students next week via email and through Blackboard to achieve this goal. As we navigate the changes, there are very few exceptions for students who are in nursing and public safety courses (fire & rescue, EMS, law enforcement). We are evaluating all the available alternatives for other face-to-face classes and labs.
I also want to commend our staff who are embarking on unique opportunities to engage with students. For instance, we’re planning a curbside technology offering that would allow us to loan students devices and wireless access from our parking lots. We’re coming up with unique ways and partnerships to provide fun snacks and treats (go Student Life & Engagement!) as well as an arrangement with the local school system to provide free or low-cost breakfasts and lunches to our students.
Forsyth Tech Cares
I want to thank all of you who are working every day both on campus and teleworking, to keep us moving forward with plans for classes while staying responsive to student needs. From our discussions, it is evident that we support each other as a family. We know unconditionally, Forsyth Tech Cares… and that inspires me. That’s not only what we do, it is who we are.
In light of that effort, the College has recruited a taskforce of interested staff and faculty, and especially those who cannot work remotely in their current jobs, to become student advocates, connecting with students with the goal of having a two-way conversation to show them Forsyth Tech Cares, and to find out how the College can help them weather the COVID-19 storm. The College has also developed a special webpage where students and employees can share their needs.
New Board Policy & Procedures to Protect All Employees Compensation
Earlier today, the Board of Trustees, in an urgent called telephone meeting, approved an Emergency Leave Provision and a new Communicable Disease Policy (see attached). The Emergency Leave Provision allows employees who are not able to work their full shift – due to not being able to telecommute or for other reasons – between March 16 and March 31, to receive their normal pay. If you are a part-time staff member who works varied hours, you will be paid for your standard number of weekly hours. The new Communicable Disease Policy allows us to protect employees’ pay in the event the COVID-19 crisis extends longer. This policy gives me the authority to grant emergency paid leave for up to thirty (30) days as needed for essential business services, College closures or for emergency leave.
As I mentioned, this is an unprecedented moment in our history and we are working through challenges together. Forsyth Tech is committed to work with all employees to make sure we can accommodate your needs as much as possible. These two board actions, allow us to continue to pay employees.
During any crisis – and frankly any time! – communication is one of the biggest challenges. I know that and I know that we are doing our best. When we communicate with you, we are often also quickly communicating with our students. Please note that we are posting all of these to our special webpage, so please feel free to review any of that communications there.
To that end, in addition to the email communication, I was pleased to host my first Facebook Live on Thursday afternoon. It was well received and I look forward to doing more of these. Please stay tuned to TechLink for more details, but at this point, I would encourage you to come to our Facebook page on Tuesday, March 24, at 2 p.m. for another Q&A. I welcome your questions and the time to have a more two-way conversation with you and our students.
Thank you for all you do to keep Forsyth Tech the great college and the close family that we are, and will continue to be, not only through this crisis but through the months ahead.
Dr. Janet N. Spriggs, President