Updates from the President

Updates from the President

North Arkansas College President Dr. Rick Massengale is updating the College community through a series of letters outlining the College's response to COVID-19.

Oct. 1, 2021

Northark President Dr. Rick L. MassengaleDear Pioneers,

I’m writing to let you know that our Healthy Campus Task Force met yesterday morning and has good news to share.  The team discussed how well the semester has progressed, noting the low number of cases on campus.  Every one of you have made personal efforts to maintain a healthy campus. It worked!  I thank you for your commitment to our campus family.

In alignment with the state of Arkansas ending the public health emergency earlier this week, and the reduction in active cases in Boone County, we are easing up on several former campus restrictions.  We are now allowing groups to gather, having in-person meetings, campus group tours, and bringing back college events and potlucks that we all enjoy!  Please practice distancing, and specifically regarding potlucks, I ask that you use gloves when handling shared food utensils. Face coverings are still encouraged, but not required.  It is these little things that can help us continue our pursuit of opening our campus fully and safely.  Use your own judgement and be considerate of others.  It will be nice to return to these social events, and I ask that you participate while still being smart.  Do not attend or come to campus if you are sick. If we see a spike in cases and need to make more adjustments, the Healthy Campus Task Force will meet to implement future modifications. 

Fall is here and we’re approaching mid-terms, the semester is flying by. Our Pioneer athletes are gearing up for a successful season.  The games are posted on the website, please make time to attend a game and cheer them on.  You may also notice the Esports arena is taking shape in the Bradley Student Center and just to the north of the baseball field you can see the work on Pioneer Villas residence hall.  The North campus has received new HVAC and truck driving simulators that have received press coverage far and wide, even on global industry-specific websites!

There are so many new developments occurring at NAC, it is my pleasure to let you know that we can once again come together to enjoy the college experience we had a couple of years ago.

I look forward to seeing you on campus.

Dr. Rick L. Massengale

 

 

 

 

August 19, 2021

Dear Pioneers,

The Northark Healthy Campus Task Force met this morning to review the first week of activity, I am providing an overview of this meeting and making the following request.

Students we need your help, social distancing (6 ft spacing) for unmasked individuals is not consistently being observed in the common spaces such as hallways and the Bradley Center.  If you are not able or cannot maintain social distancing please mask up in these areas.

Some classes have students who have signed up for Zoom classes but have been attending in-person.  If you are a student doing this, please let your instructor know, so that we can attempt to find a larger classroom or if the need exists or split the class into two sections.  We have set space capacity guidelines in the classrooms so that students can unmask while being at least six feet apart. You have the option to choose online or in-person for the semester, but that means you will attend in that mode consecutively all semester and not switch back and forth during the semester. This will allow us to control class sizes. 

We have some instances where the faculty may ask that you mask up in the classroom or labs if social distancing can not be maintained or there is existing circumstances that warrant.  This is for everyone’s protection, please understand this is not a mandate but an option at this time.  If the number of students in the classroom exceeds the COVID capacity and distancing cannot be maintained, a mask will be required.  If you do not want to wear a mask, there is the option in most classes to attend the class virtually. 

We know you prefer to be on campus and we want to take every step to keep in-person classes going.  However, you have got to help us maintain a healthy campus during these trying times.  Your cooperation is essential in allowing us to keep the on-campus option available.  Maintaining proper class sizes in the room is essential, masking in public areas where social distancing is not an option and respecting the special needs of faculty/lab assistance in certain situations will help us continue on as we have started. 

Please do your part to help us, provide you the on-campus experience we all desire.  Do your part and be smart to protect the Northark campus community. We will be communicating with you on a regular basis and there are good things this semester that will provide support to you to help you finish strong. I’ll be in touch later with more information on that assistance. 

Dr. Rick L. Massengale

August 13, 2021

Dear Pioneers,

This morning the Healthy Campus Task Force met to discuss the hot topic of face coverings on campus.  We added a couple of new layers to our directive which give more flexibility to those divisions who come in direct contact with patients or work in close proximity for hands-on classes. 

For now, we will continue the directive we have communicated over the last few months: Northark will strongly encourage face coverings be worn inside buildings when it is not possible to socially distance,  but we cannot require them per law.  The Health Professions and Technical programs requirements may differ based on their specific division needs. Face coverings should be worn in public areas when it is not possible to socially distance. 

It is imperative everyone to be respectful of others regarding face coverings at all times. We will not tolerate anyone bullying individuals on whether or not they should wear face coverings.

I say “for now” because a lot can change in a short amount of time.  Should we see an uptick in cases, or see that people are abusing social distancing, we reserve the right to modify and adjust our recommendations at any time in conjunction with our Healthy Campus Taskforce, federal, state and local health agencies and organizations.  It is possible a decision will be forthcoming that upholds the law prohibiting mask mandates by state agencies, if that occurs we will be in compliance. If circumstances change and we see the need to enforce stronger preventative measures that include face coverings and other modifications, we will meet and identify what steps should be taken to minimize the impact upon the Northark family. The Healthy Campus Task Force will meet weekly to access the situation on campus and in the community until the trend shows significant change..

Our main priority remains keeping the campus community safe while providing a high-quality educational experience and allowing students to return to in-person classes.  Students who aren’t comfortable with coming to campus can choose to attend online and live-online classes.

I am eagerly looking forward to seeing students in the hallways on Monday and know that I am watching this situation closely.  I’ll update you immediately when and if any changes occur. Please enjoy the weekend and I’ll see you on Welcome Week.

Go Pioneers!

Dr. Rick L. Massengale

 

 

 

 

 

August 3, 2021

Hello Pioneers,

I hope your summer went well and you took time to relax and be with family and friends. Classes will begin in a couple of weeks and this summer heat will turn into cool fall days.  I’m liking these lower temperatures this week! As more people return to campus, our Healthy Campus Taskforce will be monitoring the health of the campus and meeting regularly. I will share decisions from those meetings with you by email, on our social media outlets and update the College’s Campus Health webpage at www.northark.edu/coronavirus We are in the process of updating the Healthy Campus Plan.

Summer has gone well. Fortunately, we had no cases on campus for most of the summer until recently. At the date of this letter there are currently 2 active cases reported. As a reminder, our Covid-19 Policy states that students, employees, family members, or other visitors may not come to any Northark campus or college event if they are running a fever, and unless they have been fever-free (without the use of medication) for 24 hours.  Students and employees should communicate with their instructor or supervisor, as usual, if they are unable to work because of illness or because they are caring for a sick family member.

Our top priority is to minimize the impact on campus and currently plan to offer classes in-person, online, live online, or hybrid in the upcoming fall term.  Last spring, we strategically arranged the fall schedule of classes to offer students the choice of attending classes on-campus or online. We have no way of looking into a crystal ball to know what the future looks like when everyone comes back together.  However, the health of our Northark family will dictate whatever future actions we take to keep everyone safe.  Each academic division has contingency plans in place to mitigate interruptions to learning and progression through the semester.

Many of you have asked about face coverings.  According to Act 1002 of 2021 passed last April, state and local governments cannot issue mask mandates.  The law may be repealed, but at this time it is still in effect. Until the law is repealed or amended, Northark will strongly recommend face coverings inside buildings for individuals who are not fully vaccinated but will not require them as per law.

Other preventative measures include a thorough cleaning of campus with a product that kills the virus before classes begin, campus signage and communications that encourage physical distancing, screening and testing for illness, handwashing, cleaning, disinfection and asking students and employees to stay home when sick. Should you get Covid and must quarantine at home, you may work from home.  If you are unable to work from home, you can use your accumulated sick leave until you are able to return. 

State guidelines require students and staff to isolate when ill with Covid and to quarantine if unvaccinated and exposed to the virus, or if vaccinated but experiencing symptoms.  The CDC defines a close contact as an individual confirmed to have been within six feet for 15 cumulative minutes or longer within a 24-hour period during the infectious period of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Fully vaccinated students or employees do not have to quarantine unless they have or develop symptoms.  If you’ve been exposed to Covid, have symptoms of Covid, or have had a positive test for Covid, use this link to complete the Reporting Form https://bit.ly/3xbZz9A , or call Kris Greening at (870) 754-4578. Specific questions or concerns may be sent to coronavirus@northark.edu.

The most effective strategy to protect people from getting sick and reducing the risk of spreading Covid is to get vaccinated.  In partnership with NARMC and the Boone County Health Unit, vaccination clinics will be held on campus in the Learning Resource Center (Library) Wednesday, August 18, from 10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and on Thursday, August 19, from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.   The clinics are open to students and employees.  These are walk-in clinics, no appointment necessary.  We are working on a clinic for our North Campus employees and students (North campus students and employees are welcome to attend the south campus clinics on the 18th & 19th as well).

We must stay vigilant and not put ourselves or students in situations where people could be exposed. It is best to assume all of us could be a carrier and err on the side of caution to protect the campus as a whole. This does not mean we can’t enjoy being together (while physically distancing) on campus and interacting with students and colleagues. It’s been a long road over the last year and I’m personally proud of the teamwork everyone contributed to stay ahead of whatever Covid put in front of us.  Our enrollment has slowed as the Delta variant cases have spiked in the area.  Be assured that we have been, are currently, and will be, monitoring the situation closely. As the nation, state, and region battle this latest spike, please know that we are evaluating and making contingency plans for the different potential scenarios that we may face.  While two weeks is not that far away, multiple obstacles can evolve that will affect decisions made by and for the College.  Your health and safety are a top concern to me, as is ensuring that we are situated to provide quality educational product to our students.  I will keep you posted and continue to monitor and listen to the input from the experts in their field moving forward. 

I hope to meet many of you on campus this semester. We finished the last year strong and we can do it again, even better this time.  I’m beyond excited about the 2021-22 academic year and the new developments we have in the future for the benefit of our Northark family.

Warmest Regards,

Dr. Rick L. Massengale