‘Higher ed should always meet the student where they are’: Tennessee College of Applied Technology shares COVID-19 guidelines


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As schools across the state welcome students back either in-person or virtually, the Tennessee College of Applied Technology is four months into their COVID-19 health and safety protocol.

Students returned to the classroom for the Summer Trimester in May. When they arrived, new measures were in place to keep staff, faculty, and students safe.

“I think it’s important that we we’re just like any other business. But we have signage all over campus alerting people to six feet apart, social distancing. Remember, check your symptoms. Just reminders, friendly reminders here and there all over campus,” said TCAT President Kelli Chaney.

Chaney said the ultimate goal is to keep everyone safe, but also, comfortable while learning in-person.

“We had very frank conversations about their coursework and about staying healthy. And our students are adults and we give them the option. You can be in class and finish your coursework with this staggered model or you can work remotely,” said Chaney, “You do have to be online during that time to do your coursework, or you can take a leave of absence and pick up where you left off when you get ready to come back. We want to be flexible enough because higher ed should always make the student where they are.”

There are 536 students within TCAT. At any given time, in the morning hours for the daytime classes, there may be 200-250 students on campus. Schedules are staggered and classroom sizes are limited.

Signs on the TCAT Knoxville campus remind anyone on campus to adhere to guidelines.

“We stagger the classes. And just like we said, they may be in lecture in the morning and labs in the afternoon and then another group in lecture and then another group in labs and just it flips that way. But all of our classes are like that and it helps,” Chaney said.

TCAT has also implemented a QR code questionnaire that students, staff, and faculty are expected to answer before entering a building on campus. The technology was developed by the TCAT IT Department.

If a person receives a “Red X” after the questionnaire, they likely noted they were showing symptoms or came into contact with someone who has COVID-19. At that point, they are not able to enter the building and are given support as to the next steps, like where to find testing.

“Our goal is to be 100 percent compliant with CDC recommendations and local health officials recommendations on whatever we do. And at the end of the day, our highest priority is keeping our students, our faculty and staff healthy and having a vibrant community and campus,” said Chaney.

Chaney said a student forum is planned to talk with students about their thoughts on the current protocol and how to move forward with graduation plans.


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