Editorial: District’s pandemic response earns five stars

Illustration by Mattheau Faught

We commend the Dallas County Community College District for its responses to the novel coronavirus.

In a time when many universities struggled with what options to take as life began shutting down, employees in the district came together — remotely — to respond to the needs of students in a holistic approach.

One of these initiatives, the texting and calling campaign employed by the Rapid Response Team, showed us that the district cares about the needs of its students. We hope the district continues this work as classes primarily remain online in the fall.

Don’t take just our word for it, though. Twitter user @amiableblanket commented on the call she received from the DCCCD by saying, “They just called me and had a real person ask me how I’m doing and how the adjustment has been for me. … UT could never and that makes me sad.”

https://twitter.com/amiableblanket/status/1253373534967074816?s=19

Students appreciate that we’re not just seen as numbers, but as humans struggling like everyone else during this time. Many community college students work or are non-traditional students taking care of families while attending school.

Not only do students work, but 27 percent of community college students who are dependents and 47 percent of independent students live in poverty, according to a 2016 study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

With massive layoffs hitting the country, the COVID-19 pandemic created more stress for community college students than traditional students at universities whose only job could be attending class.

The texting and calling campaign is just one example. Giving students the option to receive a full refund if they dropped by the last day of class May 14 was a huge help to us.

Whether it was due to students needing the money they spent on classes or not keeping up with their grades during this tumultuous time, the option for us to get a full refund was generous of the DCCCD.

Communication at the beginning of the shutdown from district to students was rocky. There were times it felt like students were the last to know about what was taking place.

However, the problem was corrected, and student newsletters became more frequent without being too much.

Having the graduation ceremony online with a free cap and gown is also praiseworthy. While some school districts are holding ceremonies at sporting arenas, the cost outweighs the benefits for the DCCCD doing this.

It’s disappointing not being recognized for our successes in-person, especially for students who have worked so hard to graduate.

However, the health of everyone is more important than a ceremony. In the end, what matters is receiving the degree.

Deciding now that classes will be primarily online in the fall was also a good decision. Our campuses are not built for social distancing, and trying to hold classes in-person while adhering to best practices would turn into a logistical nightmare. This choice now gives students and employees the opportunity to figure out best practices for another virtual semester.

There is no way of knowing how the coronavirus will affect academia in the long-term. With a second-wave being forecasted for the fall and a vaccine still unavailable, we hope the DCCCD will continue its work to ensure students’ needs are met.

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