President's Page - March 31, 2020

Blog 20: Barton Response - COVID-19

Greetings to each of you on this final day of March.

Who would have predicted the unveiling of circumstances that have been thrusted upon ourselves, our families, our work settings, and our communities. It is something that I have not experienced in my lifetime and is a phenomenon that leaves us wrestling with many decisions, changes, and unknowns. In many regards, I also believe that Barton has and does, possess the collective character and operational strengths that allows this College to deftly transition and maintain support to our students, partners, and service areas.

This past week, our service operations at Ft. Riley (FR), Ft. Leavenworth (FL), Ellsworth Correctional Facility (ECF), Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility (LCMHF), and Grand View Plaza (GVP) each maneuvered and responded to their unique partner directives/requests. Faculty and staff at FR, FL, and GVP, led the College in transitioning their work locations to their personal residences with the exception of Soldier School training that remains as is. The Kansas Department of Corrections requested that we maintain our presence at ECF and LCMHF and College employees are maintaining their work stations. Yesterday, the faculty and staff supporting the Barton County Campus, that includes the Great Bend downtown facility and off site high school programming locations, returned in force, whether stationed in their homes/off site or in their College based work stations. Services are on-going and Barton County Campus staffing has been minimized and will continue to be minimized. For your update, the following listing of programs are meeting on Campus and there will be more modifications as the list was at 12 programs this past Friday:

  • Auto Body
  • Automotive
  • Medical Assistant (MDAS 1648)
  • Criminal Justice (CRIM 1658)
  • Target Shooting
  • Adult Healthcare (Certified Nurse Aide/Certified Medication Aide)
  • Nursing

In addition, the residence halls and cafeteria remain open. We have approximately 40 students who have asked to remain in their dormitory space for various reasons and the “right thing” to do was to extend humanitarian accommodation. This rationale has also been applied to our Child Development Center and “essential” working parents who need and rely on our professional child care services.

Our many responses in part to the COVID-19 challenges, have recognized the often applied term “essential”. The trailing March 28 message from VP Dean (blue), defines the term as it applies to higher education and the second trailing message (purple) recognizes the parameters that you, as an employee, can look to in meeting your job responsibilities and the recent legislation that supports workers as they address the COVID-19 driven circumstances.

With the common trepidation that accompanies the COVID-19 alarm, employees have considered what is best for themselves and their families. There have been many concerns expressed to College administrators and the guidance provided in the March messages has been beneficial. A “bottom line” takeaway that I present is that no one person is expected to carry out their duties if they do not feel safe or there is fear for the welfare of their loved ones. Employee options have been identified and personal employee decisions have been varied. If you feel that it is not best to work, you can utilize the provisions of federal legislation or utilize your accrued leave. If your circumstances cannot be applied to federal legislation, or your work location is not acceptable, or you do not have accrued leave, you can take leave without pay. Each of you are a valued employee and we wish for your health to be maintained as you believe best.

With the above comments, I continue to applaud each of you for your commitments, energies, and allegiances to our students, partners, and communities. We have not wavered from our mission, but rather have ratcheted our purposes and actions in meeting our altered environments. COVID-19 driven challenges will persist and there is no doubt in my mind that we will persist as well in providing what is needed.

Sincere thanks to you all and best wishes to each of you and your families.