— Updated March 20, 2020, 10:47am

Dear Trinidad State Community:

Spring Break is traditionally a time to refresh and recharge from the stress and excitement of a higher education experience. It is also a time for renewal, as we look forward to May -- to warmer weather, to semester’s end, and to graduation. Unfortunately, things are much different this semester. COVID-19 has brought new challenges and normalcy has gone by the wayside. We are all a bit on edge as we consider the many unknowns before us. And yet, I have confidence that the legacy of Trinidad State will endure. As I walk the campus, speak with employees, and visit with students, I am encouraged that we are looking out for one another. I am confident that we can develop and adopt new processes to better serve the needs of students and employees, not just for the short-term of this current crisis, but for many years to come. I am confident that the communities of Southern Colorado, of which we are an integral part, will recognize and value the critical contributions we make to their economic and cultural fabric; and they will endeavor to support us as much as we will continue to support them.

A couple of updates and decisions from this week:

For students

Commencement: In-person graduation ceremonies, currently scheduled for May 8, are cancelled. This is, of course, a difficult decision, but one that is necessary given the restrictions on large-group gatherings and to protect the health of our students, staff, and families. After spring break, we will be conducting a survey of graduating students to find out your preferences for an alternative way to celebrate your graduation from TSJC. Our Graduation Committee has been working on some ideas for a virtual celebration. We are also open to considering an in-person ceremony later in the year. Watch for a survey in your email the week of March 30. It’s important to remember that however we celebrate, you will still receive your certificate or degree as soon as it’s completed, and you will be a TSJC graduate!

Residence Hall and Dining Refunds: Students who check out of the residence halls before March 30 will be refunded six weeks of room and board to their student account. The business office will credit student accounts based on financial aid and scholarship awarded to the student. A pro-rated refund will be calculated for students who check out after March 30. To determine the status of your account, contact Ruth Blasi in the TSJC Business Office (719-846-5547, RuthAnn.Blasi@trinidadstate.edu).

For faculty and staff:

We are continuing with current plans to migrate as much instruction as possible to online delivery for the remainder of the semester. Please check out the faculty blog (https://tsjconline.wordpress.com/), put together by Lisa Cheney-Steen, Jocelyn King, and other faculty. You will find some excellent resources and helpful hints for moving your courses online. Lisa is also available to help any faculty member or instructor who needs one-on-one assistance. The blog also has helpful hints for staff, such as how to forward your phone and use Webex for meetings.

At this point, the governor and CDHE are supporting the continuation of CTE classes that require hands-on learning – as long as the classes are small and can provide appropriate social distancing. As you all know, a number of our CTE programs are supplying the workforce that is necessary in a time of crisis: EMTs, public safety officers, nurses, and other healthcare workers. Line technicians are critical during natural disasters. Our state needs these skilled workers as quickly as possible, and will be counting on community colleges to retrain displaced workers and get them back into the workforce quickly. Kudos to many of our CTE faculty who have come up with innovative strategies to teach certain skills online. I am in awe of your creativity! We will continue to follow guidance from CCCS and state leaders on CTE, and will let you know if anything changes.

As I stated in my message earlier this week, staff are encouraged to work from home if at all possible. We will have minimal staff working on campus (housing, dining, facilities, security) with most student support and business functions moving to remote work. We expect a skeleton crew on each campus to be available to support students who are still here. Our IT staff has been conducting an inventory this week to determine technology needs of staff members working from home. Administrative Services has developed some forms, located in the Employee Portal, for you to document your work-from-home arrangement and track your time.

As you make your final preparations for spring break, please know that I appreciate all that you are doing – students, faculty, and staff alike. I am proud that our TSJC community is doing its part in preparing for and controlling the spread of COVID-19. And I am proud of all we have accomplished to make TSJC such a remarkable place. We will use this opportunity to find new and innovative ways to deepen the relationships that sustain us. And we will be a better and stronger college for it. Be safe, and stay healthy!

— Dr. Rhonda M. Epper

President

Trinidad State Junior College

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