As we know, for many, COVID-19 has turned the world completely upside down. Fort Lewis College students have had many changes to their jobs, classes and social life. Here’s the inside scoop on what’s going on in the life of an FLC student.
Curriculum adjustments for classes dependent on campus resources
On Thursday, March 19th, President Stritikus announced that all FLC courses would be switched to online for the rest of the spring semester. In the announcement, classes the week following spring break were canceled, to give faculty more time to prepare for the switch online, which can be difficult for majors with less traditional means of instruction.
For performance based theatre classes, the last show of the semester was canceled, although most students had received credit from the previous show earlier this semester. For those receiving credit from this last show, she is working with them using alternate assignments, Ginny Davis, the department chair of Theatre said.
As for education majors who are currently student teaching, these students are actively having to adapt to online learning for their classes as well, said William Camp the coordinator of field experiences in the Teacher Education department.
“Ninety percent of the student teachers are now having to hustle and learn how to do this virtual online learning with their cooperating teachers,” Camp said. “They're going to have this extra module of instructional practice to add to their resumes or to their experience.”
However a few students have connectivity issues or a difficult time transitioning their subjects online, such as P.E and theatre, he said.
Although this semester at FLC has been switched to a pass/fail grading system, announced on March 26th, some students in the teacher education system have been requesting letter grades, said Dr. Kristine Greer, professor and Associate Dean of the Teacher Education department.
“I asked people what they would prefer, and most of them would prefer a letter grade, because they're graduating so they want their grade point average,” she said.
According to Kami Larson, Lab Coordinator in the biology department, the biology department was given word about the online transition March 12th, before Spring Break. Professors got together to discuss ideas in moving lectures and labs online with the help of those who had experience in online courses, Larson said.
Teaching and Learning Services offered workshops and answered questions with the help of information technology professionals to prepare for online instruction, Cathy Hartney, biology senior lecturer, said.
Dr. Kimberly Hannula, chair of geosciences, said the decision to move courses to strictly online was a decision she had hoped for. Expecting students to travel on spring break and rejoin the next week would’ve caused a breeding ground for the virus, Hannula said.
“The department has been emailing each other links to useful materials, plus dividing up the work of creating new online labs for the introductory courses as much as we can,” she said.
In addition to modifying their labs, professors calculated lab costs for a week, Larson said. For every week students were not in the lab, those costs were refunded, she said.
Hartney said she has resorted to narrating powerpoints and Zoom video footage of models from the lab, she said.
In the geology department, instructors have utilized virtual models in observing groundwater, Hannula said. In place of field trips, an instructor from geology has made an entire trip through video, looking at the landslide mitigation in Durango.
“The students seem to be taking it well. They miss each other, and miss getting to work together and go on field trips.” Hannula said, “But they also seem to understand that this is a weird, scary time, and we're all doing the best we can.”
Food security for residents on campus
San Juan Dining Hall continues to serve students during the stay-at-home order and the coronavirus pandemic.
Jerritt Gibbons, a server for SJDH, said that he was happy to work because he was offered extra hours.
“It’s nice to hear how appreciative the students are,” Gibbons said. “They’re supporting us as much as we’re supporting them.”
In regards to dining hall staff members who are no longer working, Gibbons said that it is sad to see the staff diminished.
SJDC has lost two-thirds of its workers, said Bill Baransk, executive chef at FLC.
Baranski said it is sad that the school year had to end on a negative note.
“I wanted to go out with a bang with revising our menus and tweaking our system that we've been working on all year long” Baranski said. “All our grand plans have been smashed by the virus.”
Amid the pandemic, The Colorado State Board of Education has the final say as to what SJDH can and cannot do, he said.
They tell the college what to do and then FLC informs Gina Rios, the general manager of SJDH, on what the kitchen staff can do to provide meals to the students, Baranski said.
As far as being a service for the students, Baranski is uncertain about the summer but is looking forward to cooking for students in the fall, he said.
In mid-March, President Trump and Congress signed and passed the largest emergency aid package in US history, offering around 2 trillion dollars in relief to Americans, in response to the job displacement and financial instability that has followed the COVID-19 global pandemic. American adults will be granted the following one-time payments:
$1,200 payment to individual taxpayers
$2,400 payment for married couples filing jointly
An additional $500 per qualifying child under the age of 17.
If you are a dependent: You do not qualify for the stimulus check. There are two ways that you are considered a dependent:
Your parents claimed you as a dependent on their taxes.
You fit the legal definition of a dependent. This definition is: a child under the age of 19 at the end of the year, who lives with you for more than half of the year and has not provided more than half of his or her own support for the year, qualifies as your dependent, so long as he or she doesn’t file a joint return for the year.
If you filed your taxes for fiscal year 2019 or 2018 and your parents do not claim you as a dependent: You should qualify for the stimulus check, as long as your income on your last tax return does not exceed $75,000.
Stimulus checks will be direct deposited into the bank account listed on 2019 tax returns (or 2018, if you have yet to file for last year). If no bank account is listed on either return, the IRS will send a physical check to your most recent address on file. You will be notified, via mail, that your payment has been dispersed.
FLC students strategize for future plans to find employment opportunities within their available regions.
Keleraini Trujillo, FLC student, said she is not searching for a job at the moment but she is worried about how long these stay-at-home orders will last.
Trujillo said she plans to work during the summer and said the jobs which are available to the public do not meet the standards of college students, such as flexible working hours that most college students need in order to focus on their education.
“People who live check by check, myself, are finding it hard to find food, tissue paper and other essentials,” Trujillo said. “There is a very limited selection of these things and since everyone has bought big quantities that leaves nothing for people like myself who live check by check.”
Amber Henderson, FLC student, said if it weren’t for COVID-19 she would still be working as a Kid Camp Aide for Animas Valley Elementary.
“I found out the dorms were closing on campus and I honestly was so concerned,” Henderson said. “I wanted to go home and my family wanted me home for my safety, so I just got ahold of my boss and she was so understanding and told me I just needed to fill out some paperwork and to take care of myself and stay healthy.”
Henderson said in light of the situation that she is happy to be home with her family and maintaining a healthy lifestyle for herself.
This debacle continues to surprise many, however there are students at FLC who continue to choose alternative patterns in order to show others around the world that there are loopholes which allow people to strive for the better.
Safety during the stay-at-home order
COVID-19 has left many students feeling displaced and forced to return home to live with their parents being on their own for some time.
When students return home, or are forced to return home, they bring new thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. This can make an already unstable home environment worse, Lori Benefiel, professor of psychology said.
If a student is going home to a place where they feel unwelcome or unsafe, they should make it a priority to stay in touch with friends, Benefiel said.
As students navigate their way through learning and life during the coronavirus pandemic, it is important not to self-isolate, but to stay-in-touch with family and friends that bring you a sense of comfort, Benefiel said.
It is in our best interest to take this time we have been given and use it to do the things we have wanted to do for so long, Benefiel said.
During the stay-at-home order, it is important that people continue to take care of themselves, Benefiel said.
There are three things people can do in order to take care of themselves. Sleep a lot and sleep more than you think you should, get at least 20 minutes of sunshine and exercise every day, Benefiel said.