Technical Institute to Combine Online, In-Person Teaching

Northwest Technical Institute will introduce a blended learning model to help combat the coronavirus on campus this fall, administrators say.

Robin Eason, vice president of instruction, presented the protocol for opening at Thursday’s meeting of the executive board of directors.

“We will have school,” said Jim Rollins, school president since July 1. “We will do it as close to normal as circumstances will allow us to.”

Rollins, 73, previously served as the Springdale School District superintendent for 38 years.

Students in each class will be split into two groups to limit the number of students receiving in-class instruction at one time, Eason said. A sample week would have one group in class three days a week, with the other half in class two days a week. The groups would rotate the days for in-class instruction during subsequent weeks to make sure all students receive the same amount of teaching.

Instruction will be synchronous for all, she said, with students attending class from home through Zoom or Google Meet at the same time as those who’re attending on campus.

Instruction will begin Aug. 24, and about 1,500 students are enrolled for the fall semester, said Melissa Greenslade, student services director.

“Almost all of our programs are at or above enrollment from last year,” she said.

The technical school offers training in nine diploma programs, including ammonia refrigeration maintenance, automotive service, practical nursing and welding. The school also features certificate programs for heating, ventilation and air conditioning, certified nursing and phlebotomy.

The school intends to enroll the maximum number of students for all programs this fall and will use guidelines provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to maintain a healthy environment, Eason said.

“This is an ever-evolving plan,” she said, adding the school’s response to the virus will shift as the CDC provides new guidance.

The safety of staff and students is the first priority of the plan, which will require all to be screened and have their temperatures checked upon entering the school daily, Eason said. Wristbands with the day of the week will be worn by all to ensure everyone in the building has been screened.

The Student Center will be closed for gatherings, the school will use an electronic system to record the temperature and check-in data for students and staff daily and face masks will be required for all, she said. The school will be cleaned daily, and social distancing practices will be used.

The school’s classroom and lab spaces are small, making social distancing all the more important on campus, Rollins said.

The same social distancing, blended learning and synchronized practices used in the classroom will be put in place in support of school labs and hands-on activities in all learning environments, Greenslade said.

Teachers will wear face shields in addition to masks to further prevent the spread of the virus, Eason said.

Illnesses by students who contract the coronavirus will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, Eason said.

“We will need to plan for quarantines,” Rollins said, adding student illnesses will be a given and will have to be addressed to minimize the impact on the education progress.

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