Virus outbreak brings changes to AC

By Stormie Sanchez, Staff Reporter

With the coronavirus invading every aspect of student lives, it can be difficult not to be overwhelmed. Local businesses are temporarily closing their doors and area schools are asking students to learn from home. With all of these changes happening so rapidly, the staff at Amarillo College has been working on overdrive to help ease student anxiety.

For Beau Bellatty, a cybersecurity major, the changes have left him busier at work. “I have a job that has such a high exposure rate to the virus, I’ve been trying to keep my mind preoccupied with hobbies like video games and what not,” he said. “I think with class starting back up it will help me also keep focus away from all the bad that comes with a pandemic.”

Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, AC president, said that the faculty is doing everything they can to make the transition to online learning as easy as possible for students and teachers. “We have amazing faculty and staff who sacrificed spring break, time with family, and sleep to create a great tech supported learning environment for students,” Lowery-Hart said. “I think students will be surprised at how engaging these new approaches will be and how supportive the college will be to help students succeed.”

The college is also working toward securing more money for emergency aid, said Lowery-Hart. “We know our students will be facing barriers that might seem daunting. We have an entire office, the Advocacy and Resource Center, and a social services network to help students when they need us most.”

Students without internet or computer access at home will still be able to take advantage of The Underground, where social distancing will be practiced for student safety, said Joe Wyatt, the assistant director of communication and marketing. “Social distancing will be strictly observed in The Underground, which means we will limit the number of persons who can use it at any given time, and each workstation will be sanitized after every use.”

Wyatt said Wi-Fi hotspots have been donated for anyone who needs it. “Students can access free Wi-Fi hotspots in Parking Lot 4 and 5 of the Washington Street Campus as well as the back parking lot at the Community Link Campus,” he said.

Although there are a lot of changes, it will be important for students to plan for summer and fall classes like normal, Wyatt said. “Registration will be open April 6 for summer and fall classes. We encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities as they normally would,” he said.

For Bellatty, the steps the college is taking to keep everyone up to date with COVID-19 preparations have put his mind at ease. “I feel like the college is handling the situation very well. They are making sure to keep us informed, and to do whatever it takes to help us as students in a crisis situation like we are experiencing.”

Student safety and success is the main goal for Lowery-Hart. “Above all, we want our students to be safe, practice good social distancing and CDC guidelines for hygiene and to reach out to us if you need anything – anything at all.”

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