Red Deer College adapting and adjusting amidst COVID-19
I have worked in post-secondary education for more than 30 years, and the timeframe since the middle of March has presented some of the most unpredictable, ever-changing, and unexpected days (and sleepless nights) that I have ever known. I know that similar sentiments are shared by people everywhere as COVID-19 creates concerns for our families, our work, our businesses and our health. Despite the challenges, I am truly inspired by how our community has come together to support each other.
At Red Deer College, I have been extraordinarily impressed with how our faculty, staff and students have responded, delivered and carried on during this time. When all of our in-person classes were cancelled on March 16, people responded quickly to protect the health and well-being of everyone on our campuses. And then they adapted very quickly to the temporary new reality of teaching, learning and working remotely. From what I have seen, these massive changes have been taken on in a manner that is respectful and collaborative. Thank you to all of our students, faculty and staff for your tremendous efforts.
As we look to the days ahead, there are knowns and there are some unknowns. We know that the health and safety of our campus community is our primary responsibility, and we’re approaching it with the kind of attention and agility it deserves. We are following advice and directives from Alberta Health Services and our governments to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.
To that end, all in-person classes remain cancelled until September 2020. Given the breadth of programming that RDC offers, this has different impacts on students, depending on their areas of study. Wherever possible, courses are being delivered online. I would like to acknowledge the extensive work and flexibility our students, faculty and staff – particularly staff in our IT Services area – have undertaken during this transition. For other areas, such as RDC’s Apprentice programs, courses have been cancelled for the March to April and May to June sessions. Where students are more than 50% complete their programs, or where their program delivery is online, other options are being pursued. This is based on directives from Alberta Apprenticeship and Industry Training, and it is consistent with all of our province’s post-secondary institutions that deliver Apprenticeship.
When it comes to events on campus, all College and externally organized events scheduled until April 30 have been cancelled. We continue to review events beyond that timeline, and we will communicate these decisions to the public as soon as possible. RDC’s campuses remain open, but we have implemented temporary facility closures and altered service delivery across many areas.
Our staff have been encouraged to work remotely where possible, and we will continue assess the duration of this within the context of helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Our dedicated team is continuing to do the excellent operational work they have always done, and are finding new, creative ways to connect with each other, with students and with the communities we serve.
When it comes to the unknowns of this situation, we simply don’t know what the duration of COVID-19 might be across our region and the globe. Like everyone else, we will continue to adapt and find new ways of living, studying and working during these times. As you look to learn what’s happening at RDC, I encourage you to stay connected to rdc.ab.ca/coronavirus. This webpage includes updates, service delivery updates and FAQs, and it’s the most up-to-date source of information for the College.
This has been a true test of everyone’s flexibility, tirelessness and resourcefulness - at RDC and across our community. When I accepted the role of President at Red Deer College on the cusp of our University Transition, I knew that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something bold and transformative. I knew that central Albertans were known for their strong entrepreneurial spirit, work ethic, and resilience. I couldn’t have imagined the challenges we’re facing now, but I am glad to be facing this with you, as a proud member of this community. I know that by working together, we will continue to find solutions, and we will emerge from this even stronger than we were before.
This column was first published in Red Deer Advocate on March 28, 2020.