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Good Evening, Northern Essex Community College Students, Faculty and Staff—

I know this has been a challenging week for everyone.

Spring break is arriving just in time, which will give us all a chance to pause, take a breath, and make necessary plans and arrangements for our personal and professional lives.

This will be a lengthy email communication, but hopefully one you will find informative and useful.

Over the past few days, the World Health Organization has declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic, the United States has imposed significant international travel restrictions, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has issued a State of Emergency, and daily routines for all of us—including jobs, education, shopping, transportation, recreation, and every other feature of life—have dramatically changed.

This pandemic’s effects, and responses to them, are rapidly evolving.

Here at NECC, our first priority is to ensure, as much as possible, the health and safety of everyone on our campuses. Next, we must provide for the accessibility and the quality of teaching, learning, and the services we provide our students and community partners.

Here is some important national and state information, along with a list of some of the steps we have already taken at NECC to help accomplish these important goals:

National & Statewide Information

  • As of 4:00 p.m. today, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, there are 108 reported cases of Coronavirus in the state.
  • Six of these are confirmed cases, 102 are presumptive cases.
  • The majority of these cases (82) are related to the Biogen conference in Boston.
  • Ten cases have been hospitalized; the rest have not been.
  • There are two known cases are in Essex County.
  • There have been no confirmed cases on NECC’s campuses, or among our students and employees.
  • At this time, protocols for both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) do not consider people who come into contact with others who may have been exposed to the virus (that is, “contacts of contacts”) to be potentially exposed themselves. They are not expected to be tested or to be quarantined.

Campus Health & Safety

  • A crisis response team from the college, led by CFO/COO Mike McCarthy and Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Mezquita, has been assembled to respond to coronavirus-related issues.
  • We have created a web site for current information and links to key government agencies. This site can be found on our main page at www.necc.mass.edu or directly at www.necc.mass.edu/public-safety/coronavirus-information. Please check regularly for all updates.
  • We have suspended all college-related international and out-of-state travel until further notice.
  • We have asked people traveling for non-college related purposes either internationally or out of state to complete a Travel Form, located at https://northernessex.wufoo.com/forms/xaiouj10p0abkj/.
  • We are cancelling, rescheduling, or providing alternative arrangements for on campus large group meetings. While the definition of “large group” varies from college to college and around the state, for now, we are using 50 participants as a guide.
  • We have cancelled on campus events by off campus organizations for the next two weeks, and will cancel additional events if/as needed on a continuous basis.
  • We closed the college today, March 11, and tomorrow, March 12, out of an abundance of caution due to a report of a student being exposed to someone who had been diagnosed with Coronavirus. Although the student’s potential exposure was more than fourteen days ago, and the student remains symptom-free, the student has been directed to testing, with support from the college.
  • Per the CDC and MDPH protocols described above, no other students, faculty, or staff need to be tested or quarantined at this time.
  • We have hired additional janitorial staff and arranged for more frequent and thorough cleaning of campus facilities.
  • We have installed an additional 75 hand sanitizer stations across both campuses and at satellite locations.

Teaching & Learning

  • While a growing list of private colleges and state universities have announced plans to suspend face-to-face instruction for a period of weeks, or even the rest of the spring semester, community colleges are different in many respects, and must make decisions based on different considerations. We are in the process of determining what changes we may choose to make to instructional delivery following spring break. Additional information will follow soon.
  • Meanwhile, we have encouraged faculty to be prepared to provide alternative instructional delivery, and have asked both full-time and DCE faculty to complete a “Contingency Planning” form available at https://northernessex.wufoo.com/forms/xxzzbh01qko8rl/. The information gathered on this form is already proving to be extremely helpful in understanding how we may need to prepare for instruction following spring break, and I encourage all faculty to please complete it and share your plans and needs with us.
  • Center for Professional Development, Center for Instructional Technology, and Information Technology staff have been researching and compiling a variety of tools for remote teaching, learning, and meeting facilitation.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously said, “No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

Heraclitus’ adage updated for 2020: “No one steps in the same river once. It’s constantly changing, and so are we.”

The circumstances of this coronavirus pandemic are also constantly changing, and our response to them will continue to evolve, sometimes rapidly, as well. I will continue to keep you informed.

Meanwhile, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE:

  • Follow these simple protective steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control:
    1. Clean your hands often
    2. Avoid touching your face
    3. Avoid close contact with others
    4. Stay home if you are sick
    5. Cover coughs and sneezes
    6. Clean and disinfect your environment

Monitor your college email and check the NECC Coronavirus Information web page frequently.
Let us know if you have been traveling by completing the form at https://northernessex.wufoo.com/forms/xaiouj10p0abkj/.
If you are a faculty member, complete the “Contingency Planning” form available at https://northernessex.wufoo.com/forms/xxzzbh01qko8rl/ and let us know how we can help.

Lastly, tend to yourself, your families and loved ones, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions.

Appreciatively,

Lane A. Glenn
President
Northern Essex Community College

Check out “Running the Campus,” my blog featuring stories and perspectives on leadership, higher education, and going the extra mile: http://president.necc.mass.edu or connect with me on social media on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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