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Kirkwood hosting both virtual classes, in-person labs this fall

The Kirkwood Regional Center in Washington remains closed to the public but has announced its plan to open for students in the fall. In-person labs will be offered for five classes only. (Gretchen Teske/The Union)
The Kirkwood Regional Center in Washington remains closed to the public but has announced its plan to open for students in the fall. In-person labs will be offered for five classes only. (Gretchen Teske/The Union)
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WASHINGTON — The Kirkwood Community College Washington County Regional Center will host both virtual classes and in-person labs this fall.

Director Tera Pickens said school this fall will look different from previous years due to COVID-19 influenced changes. However, the changes will reflect those made for the spring 2020 semester.

Mid-March, the Washington location was closed to public access but staff continued to work remotely. The spring semester was finished online, and summer classes were offered, she said.

Annually, the Washington location serves about 200 high school students seeking college credits. An additional number of students attend for traditional college credits, English as a Second Language (ELS) programming, adult high school completion and continuing education.

Reflecting back on earlier this year when the campus had to close its physical doors, Pickens said it was not that difficult to open virtual ones instead.

“When we look back to March, we had to make that quick decision to move to a virtual program, but we were able to be very thoughtful in our approach,” she said.

Kirkwood Community College has always offered online classes and resources, which made staff training less stressful through the transition, she said. Over the summer, staff underwent additional training in preparation for the upcoming 2020-21 school year.

In the fall, Pickens said classes will be offered via WebLive, an online platform. The class will begin at a designated time, and students are expected to log on and attend the lecture in real time as the professor teaches from a remote location. The class will have the same structure as an in-person session but will be done remotely.

Some classes, such as labs, cannot be done remotely. Pickens said those that require hands-on learning – auto technology, auto collision, advanced manufacturing, welding and architecture, construction and engineering – will all meet at the Washington campus.

“Those would be our lab focused experiences where the entire class could not be replicated in a virtual environment,” she said.

Those attending the classes will be required to be in full personal protective equipment including masks and gloves. Pickens said social distancing will be in place; rooms will be disinfected after every course, and a traffic flow plan has been set up to reduce student contact.

The class sizes, additionally, will be made smaller and an alternative schedule will be created. The details are not completed yet, Pickens said, but the idea is a class of 12 students would be split into two classes of six students, each meeting on different days.

With summer classes underway and the fall semester quickly approaching, Pickens said students have been made aware of the upcoming changes and are aware of what to expect in the fall. So far, no students have expressed concern with the new format.

“No students requested to change their schedule after the format changed, so I feel this is the new normal,” she said.

However, should social distancing guidelines be lessened, Pickens said classes could return to an in-person format easily. Until that happens, they will remain online.

“At this point in time we are planning on moving forward with WebLive,” she said.

Kirkwood Community College has multiple locations across southeast Iowa and rules and regulations will differ for each campus, she said. Those who attend a site other than the Kirkwood Community College Washington County Regional Center are encouraged to check Kirkwood’s website for further information.