23 Jun 2020

Update re: COVID-19 plans; intent to re-open in the fall

First, on June 9, the Lummi Nation extended the shelter in place order (No. 4) to June 30, 2020.  Per the resolution, all community members and businesses, including the College, must strictly comply with this new order.  “The Lummi Public Health Department and the LIBC will continue to carefully monitory the situation and will recommend transition into other phases as the science and data determine it is safe to do so.”   Additionally, the LIBC published a phased re-opening chart (see attached).  In the education/youth category, the first three phases allow for distance learning; phase four specifies re-opening the College, as well as the Lummi Nation School and other programs, with new protocols for social distancing and safety rules.

 

Second, June 11, the OSPI (Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction) published guidelines for reopening K-12 schools in the fall.  This has a direct impact on the Ferndale School District (FSD) and the Lummi Nation School (LNS).  The main takeaway is that public schools are expected to re-open this fall for in-person instruction.  However, schools are required to adopt a reopening plan through a local board resolution and approved by the state. The caveat is that health conditions in our county(ies) or region may cause a local health authority, in our case, the Lummi Public Health Dept., or the Governor or LIBC to have to reconsider this opportunity to open, but again, the primary guidance to schools is to plan for a fall opening.

 

What does this mean for us?  Based on this information, I am recommending that we, too, begin planning to offer in-person classes in the fall, at limited capacity, that includes new protocols that follow the health and safety guidance from the Tribe, State and the CDC.  The news that local schools are expected to reopen this fall is important for us because, one, the College’s practice has been to close if the LNS or FDS close due to inclement weather or, more recently, the current public health emergency; and two, there were concerns about how to accommodate employees and students with children if the local schools remained closed.

 

For summer quarter, all classes will be offered distance learning only.  There will be no in-person classes.  However, I understand that some of the extended campus sites maybe in different phases based on County and Tribal phasing approvals and protocols.  The Nez Perce site, in particular, is in phase III.  The College is currently developing a planning outline that includes specific criteria that must be met before individual departments or buildings can re-open on a limited basis.  Some of the required criteria includes plans to maintain social distancing, personal protection equipment (PPE), disposable or reusable cloth masks, gloves, and cleaning supplies to maintain a safe work environment for staff, students and guests.

 

As a start, the Salish Sea Research Center has developed a plan to offer summer internships, conducted remotely, with minimal time in the center on campus.  The SSRC plan includes all of the criteria above including social distancing, PPE, and staggered staff schedules. The SSRC already received PPE supplies as approved by a grant agency. The intent is to pilot the SSRC planning approach and use this as a model for other campus departments and buildings, and the extended campus sites, to develop and submit for approval as part of the re-opening plan.  An example of the SSRC plan, led by Misty Peacock, SSRC Director, in consultation with the Emergency Management Team, will be shared soon.

 

That said, there are over 20 buildings at the Lummi campus, at various sizes, capacity, and service functions.  The SSRC pilot plan is not meant to be a cookie cutter for all campus buildings or sites.  Rather, the intent is to use safety principles and criteria, based on health guidelines, that are tailored for each building.  This will take some time for each building and classrooms, including support from building managers, instructional leadership, and faculty, to develop and submit a proposed reopening plan appropriate for each building that will be reviewed and approved.  This includes having the required PPE supplies in place as well as considerations for departments that may have employees or guests that are considered high risk (age; underlying heath conditions) due to COVID-19 guidelines.

 

The EMT and other key members are in the process of identifying and ordering additional PPE supplies and other essential items, for all departments and sites, that promote hygiene, physical distancing, health screening and other public health considerations that will aid in re-opening planning efforts. More detailed information on this will be shared soon.

 

The College, and other TCU’s, recently received good news that we will receive a CARES Act funding allocation through the Dept. of Education Title III/MSI emergency relief fund. This funding can be used to defray or offset loss of revenue or expenses related to the CV-19 impact.  In addition to the loss of revenue and other impacts as a result of our closure, the intent is to prioritize the needs and items, identified in the proposed reopening plans, to be ready to safely return for the fall quarter.

 

To be clear, there is still no set timeframe for when the College, as a whole, is going to re-open.  There is still a considerable amount of planning to do, and plans may be on a gradual, building by building basis, but the main thing is each building must have an approved re-opening plan based on the approved health guidelines.  With the intent to offer in-person classes in the fall, it is safe to say that classrooms will be at a limited capacity to maintain physical distancing.

 

Again, I will provide an update when there is something substantive and meaningful to share with regard to our planning efforts—hopefully before the end of the quarter, and certainly throughout the summer.

 

Thanks again for your dedication and commitment throughout this spring quarter.  I wish you all great success as we enter into finals week and culminating with our virtual commencement ceremony next Friday, June 19.  I could not be more proud of the 2020 graduates given everything they have endured the past three months to reach this significant milestone.  We’re super proud of you!

 

Respectfully,

 

 

Justin, President

Northwest Indian College

 

Media Contact:

Barbara J. Lewis, NWIC Public Information Officer

PIO@nwic.edu

O: 360-392-4304

C: 360-594-1501