LIBERAL, Kan.  — Seward County Community College Trustees met via Zoom for the first regular meeting of the calendar year at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6. Along with routine organizational tasks the board completes each year in January, the group looked ahead to a spring semester they hope will repeat the success of fall 2020.

                  In order to reduce potential surges in COVID-19 cases following the holiday break, SCCC will require all returning dorm residents to test for the virus and remain in quarantine until results arrive. SCCC President Brad Bennett said the initial COVID-19 testing of Saints student athletes was promising: of 68 students tested, only one was positive.

                  “We’re really excited about that,” he said.

                  The semester begins Jan. 11 in remote instruction mode for all classes, with live, in-person teaching slated to begin Jan. 19.

                  Board member Casey Mein was absent from the meeting, which began with the annual organization of the board. Officers in 2020 were Chairperson Ron Oliver, Vice-Chairperson Marvin Chance, Jr., Clerk Brad Bennett, College Treasurer Randall Graver and Vice-Treasurer Mike Brond. Trustee Dustin Ormiston moved to retain the officers in the same positions, with a second from Kay Burtzloff. The motion passed 6-0 with Mein absent.

                  The board next appointed a voting delegate for the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT). As such, this entitles the Trustees to 1 vote at the upcoming ACCT Annual Community College Leadership Congress, Oct. 13-16, in San Diego, Calif. Ormiston and Burtzloff moved and seconded appointment of John Engel as the voting delegate. The motion passed 5-0, with Engel abstaining.

In a reorganization of board committee positions, the board members will serve as follows: ACCT representative alternate Kay Burtzloff; Accreditation Ron Oliver, Marvin Chance; Board Policy Kay Burtzloff, Ron Oliver; Budget/Finance Dustin Ormiston, Marvin Chance; Foundation Representative and alternate John Engel, Sharon Hobble; Insurance Casey Mein, Kay Burtzloff; KACCT Delegate Marvin Chance Jr., with alternates John Engel and Ron Oliver; Seward County Council of Governments Ron Oliver, Dustin Ormiston; Negotiations Casey Mein, Sharon Hobble; Athletics Program Exploratory Committee Casey Mein, Dustin Ormiston. The motion passed 6-0,

The Board voted to accept the personnel report, which included hiring of Joy Jacquart as ABE/CTE instructor, Jonah Martinez as assistant tennis coach, and Ashley Still as KSBDC / Dodge City office. Open positions are director of human resources, ESL instructor (closed/in progress), ESL substitute instructor (closed/in progress), business marketing/management instructor (part-time and closed /in progress), business administrative instructor (closed/in progress), maintenance / landscaping, director of assessment (part-time), assistant registrar, and nursing instructor.

                  The Board approved the second reading of a policy to provide COVID-19 Fringe Benefits, which, Bennett noted, “allows us to make sure our employees are staying home when they need to. It is set to sunset in May.” This policy provides for the establishment of paid emergency leave for employees who are either sick or in quarantine due to COVID-19. Benefits are available to full-time and part-time employees, who are sick or in quarantine, unable to work remotely and who have already exhausted their individual sick leave.

                  Looking ahead to 2021-22, the board approved a modest increase in rates for housing and cafeteria plan fees but shied away from decisions about higher tuition.

                  While small increases in technology fees might be warranted owing to the rapidly changing landscape of technology, vice-chair Marvin Chance Jr. said he had mixed emotions about the possibility of making college more costly, especially as people struggle with the economic impact of the pandemic.

                  “For food and housing, some of our costs we have to pass on, but I’m not sure we are sending the right message at this point by raising our fees and tuition,” he said, prompting agreement from board chair Ron Oliver. President Bennett noted that the current climate is likely to discourage tuition increases at institutions statewide.

                  With additional COVID-19 relief money slated to be distributed, Bennett added, “the new regulations will allow the college to apply funds to students’ outstanding bills, which we could not do last time.” In effect, the aid will enable students to continue with their studies even if their financial situation has been adversely impacted by the pandemic.

                  Trustees Dustin Ormiston and Kay Burtzloff moved and seconded a motion to table the tuition issue “until we have more guidance,” with a goal to return to the question in February.

In a related discussion, the board approved an increase to room and board costs, 6-0. (See table, attached). The new rates reflect an increase of $50 per package, across the board.

                  In other business the board addressed the following items:

                  • Approval of the review of Board Policy series 200, with no changes recommended for the items related to conflict of interest and confidentiality, and slight changes to the series addressing legal and bylaw items.

                  • Accepted the quote from AIDEX of Rossville, Ind., in the amount of $42,100  for the ER-4iA Robot with R-30iB Mate plus Controller-P-ERIA004P1, to be purchased with funds from the Perkins Reserve Grant, as presented.

                  • Louie Lemert, Chief Information Officer, reported that new equipment and projects have overwhelmed his department, which is also trying to keep up with the daily level of work requests submitted from across campus. One high-priority project has been providing all faculty with mobile computers for possible remote learning.

                  • Vice President of academic affairs Luke Dowell reported about professional development sessions planned as spring semester opens, the first week of classes to be delivered via remote learning options, and the plan for all students to return on-campus Tuesday, Jan. 19. Adult Basic Education classes at Epworth/ Colvin Adult Learning Center will begin enrollment Jan. 4 by appointment only. In person classes will begin Jan. 19. Looking ahead, the academic affairs team is beginning discussions about summer course offerings, and short-length, compressed courses.

                  • Dennis Sander, Vice President of finance and operations, reported that SCCC is in line to receive $250,000 of additional SPARK funds as a result of submitting a listing of costs incurred due to the pandemic. Air purifiers have arrived and are being used across campus.

                  • President Bennett brought updates about enrollment plans in development by the  administrative team to develop a strategic approach to our marketing efforts and the introduction of more flexible class sessions. A randomized testing campaign aims to identify positive cases of asymptomatic individuals through an aggressive randomized testing plan and prevent widespread outbreaks.

                  • The executive team is at work on a community event to provide hand sanitizers and masks to community members through a drive-thru event. “More details to come, but our goal is to increase awareness of safety protocols and let the community know we care,” said Bennett.