Update From President, Jason S. Wood, Ph.D. – August 9, 2021

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Thank you to the many Southwest Tech employees, students, and alumni who helped with the response to the tornados in Boscobel and Muscoda.  I am grateful nobody was hurt.  Several people have sent me updates noting that many of the responders were closely connected to the college.  Pride point!

We are awesome at helping each other and helping our students be successful.  Right now it is most important to keep people healthy and prepare our students for work.   A significant portion of our classes and services require in-person interactions and, at the same time, online or virtual learning plays a key role in helping our students achieve their goals.  We are committed to moving forward for the fall semester without changes to the planned schedule.

There are, however, a few adaptations to maintain our in-person classes and services as planned for as long as possible.

Due to the increasing spread of COVID/Delta in our 5-county service district and the relatively low vaccination rates among our potential student demographics, the following updates are being implemented effective Tuesday, August 10:

  1. Everyone will be required to wear facial masks indoors at all college facilities (i.e. outreach sites and/or anywhere we teach classes or offer services) regardless of vaccination status. Masks must cover the nose and mouth.  Individuals should put their mask on before entering any college facility.  You may remove your mask to eat/drink.  There are some learning scenarios when a face mask may pose a safety liability, and faculty should work with their deans to find solutions.  Students requesting an accommodation to the mask requirement due to a documented disability should be directed to Chris Bowers; employees should be directed to Krista Weber. We are confident masks provide additional protection against the spread of COVID-19.
    1. Resources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
  2. As the start of the fall semester approaches, greeters may be stationed at busier entrances to welcome people to campus, hand out masks, and provide COVID-19 information and resources.  We all play a role in extending kindness, empathy, and trust as we communicate expectations and hold ourselves accountable to our safety protocol.
  3. We will create a system allowing Southwest Tech students and employees to voluntarily provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status. Individual information will be kept strictly confidential.  Actual vaccination rates/numbers will help us better assess the level of risk or safety related to COVID-19 on our campus.  Our college vaccination data will drive future decision-making as to whether further risk mitigation strategies will be needed. Additional information on how to upload or provide consent to obtain your vaccination status will be coming soon.  If you complete the proof of vaccination process, you may choose to take off your mask when you are alone in your office or cubicle.  Vaccines continue to demonstrate their effectiveness at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.  Masks continue to offer the best path for us to control the spread while on campus.
    1. Resources:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  4. As has been previously communicated, in-service will have a virtual option if you prefer to participate remotely.  Please note we will remove the session on Student Recruitment, FTE, and Marketing.  It was my intent to ask everyone through a college-wide activity to develop one goal to help increase our student numbers this year as a key to sustaining our operations.  I cannot, in good faith, ask more of you right now.  We will use the additional time to talk through the COVID changes as necessary, listen to any thoughts or ideas, and answer questions as possible.  If we have extra time, we will return that to you by ending the general session early as I know everyone is so very busy working hard to help students.
  5. COVID is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future.  We have made steps in reducing the severity of its impact.  Compliance with safety protocol at work is a condition of employment.  Adjusting our behaviors in our personal life will have a more substantial impact on the frequency and intensity of future COVID outbreaks in our communities.  Please consider your own perspective on the pandemic and determine if there is something you can do differently to help.  No expectations, just a personal invitation because I care about you.  I hope we improve our situation.

Please also keep in mind:

  1. The College will remain open for in-person learning and services.  Previous social distancing protocols are not being reinstituted at this time.  Please be mindful and respectful of the space of others.  If you are concerned about the safety of your workplace, please contact Josh Bedward, Dan Imhoff, or Nicole Nelson to learn about additional measures we can provide like disinfectant wipes, plexiglass shields, hand sanitizer, etc.
  2. Enhanced cleaning protocols that are Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliant will remain in place.  We previously increased the air turnover rate and will be installing new filters with increased effectiveness.  “Fogging,” a form of intense disinfecting sanitization, will continue as well.  If you see a custodian on campus, please thank them for their efforts.  Their work truly keeps us healthier.
  3. If you feel sick, stay home.  This means at the first sign of illness not after a few days in a row of not feeling well.  If you have symptoms, get tested and report to the COVID response group.  If you or someone in your immediate household has a positive test, you are required to report it to the COVID response group and remain off-campus until Human Resources indicates you may return. We will follow up with contract tracing to prevent the spread to others.
  4. Increase safety practices such as hand-washing and sanitizing spaces.
    If you need additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), please contact Nicole Nelson, Dan Imhoff, or Josh Bedward.
  5. There are no other changes being made to other current COVID protocol.  We ask that you consider alternatives to travel, if possible, but we will support travel requests for student learning and experiences.  Please work with your supervisor to determine staffing levels which keep in-person services open during regular business hours.  We encourage alternatives to large group meetings whenever possible.

The college will send this information to students later today or tomorrow.  Additional communication will be distributed on our website, by the emergency alert system, and during campus forums.  Campus signage will be updated as well.  Each of you will have an impact on how this is received, processed, and implemented by students.  Your help and support is deeply appreciated.

We have been fortunate that changes in recent months have been toward fewer restrictions and, at the same time, recognize the need to make a few changes now to hopefully avoid more dramatic interventions later.  While we hope you stay safe from COVID, we are aware that “COVID Fatigue” is also taking a toll.  Please remember to access our Employee Assistance Program for support – info attached.  If you know of a student who needs support, please refer them to Gina Trollop.  I also encourage you to take time away from work on a regular basis to do something you enjoy with someone you love.

Please know our decisions have been based on local health indicators with guidance from professional health care officials. We want to reduce the spread of sickness.  Keeping more people healthy ensures our students can graduate and get good jobs.  You are always welcome to call/text, email, or find a time to meet so I can listen to your thoughts, feedback, ideas, or suggestions.

Your kindness towards each other is a key factor in our success.  Thank you for recognizing we are all experiencing this pandemic differently. Our individual situations and related well-being are in a constant state of flux.  We can find a firmer foundation by living our values best when it matters most.  In fact, exemplifying our values at a personal level may be the best medicine for our collective mental health.  Your empathy and compassion towards other people with differences in deeply held beliefs are inspiring.

Let’s choose to make it a successful year…for our students and for each other!



Posted in COVID-19, Update