In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees address. Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to patrons of the district.
Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:
JCCC is requiring that masks be worn in most indoor settings on campus this fall. Do you agree with JCCC’s approach to COVID-19 mitigation this year? Do you support masking requirements? What, if anything, can or should JCCC be doing to encourage students and faculty to get vaccinated?
Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:
Yes, I agree with the school policy on Covid 19 mitigation and masking requirements. The school updated cleaning protocols, improved their air filtration systems, established an internal task force, and is a partner site for Covid testing. Masking is a small sacrifice to move us in the right direction toward pre-pandemic life and it shows that you care about protecting others. This time last year, students were at home taking classes and the campus was mostly empty. This year we are able to gather in-person, thanks to masks and vaccines and I think we are all happier about that this year.
Regarding vaccinations, I think that continued sharing of data based information about vaccine effectiveness and the number of people who’ve gotten the vaccine will help. I understand the hesitation to get the vaccine and we need to provide campus resources to answer questions as well as dispel misinformation. The school should also do a discussion/webinar to discuss the long term effects of Covid, in addition to death and the benefits of the vaccine.
As a matter of course, there are programs e.g., nursing, dental hygienics, and cosmetology, that have adopted industry practices that supersede those of the college. It was prudent that a task force was created to determine the college’s policies and procedures in this regard. Considering this, the role of the trustee is to determine if the task force has the right membership. For a task force to be effective, it must include all groups impacted by policy decisions. As a physician, I also recommend adding practicing physician and clinician members who spend at least 75% of their working day with direct patient care and deep experience in the management of respiratory illnesses. This will better inform and more importantly add credibility to task force recommendations for what has become a very divisive issue.
I am proud of the work that the staff, with the support of the President’s administration and the Board of Trustees, has done to make sure students and faculty are safe on campus. Johnson County Community College has made it a point to follow the recommendations of the CDC and the JCDHE. By perpetually doing its due diligence regarding these issues, JCCC can continue to provide a quality education in the safest manner possible. I also believe that JCCC is already doing its part to promote vaccinations, including a program that offers a $250 incentive for students who are fully vaccinated. If elected, I would continue to support the staff in its effort to review and revise our institution’s protocol based on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic. I would also want to spend my time helping to brainstorm new and creative ways to incentivize vaccinations.
Yes, I agree with the masking requirements established by the Incidence Response Team at JCCC. Faculty and students want in-person learning as much as is possible and masks have been found to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Until we see a significant decrease in reported cases masks are warranted inside buildings.
Many businesses across our county understand the risk that COVID-19 poses and have taken similar steps to require masks and vaccines for their employees. JCCC should be doing everything they can to make sure faculty, students and staff are doing their part to stop the spread of this illness.
Lee Cross (incumbent)
Yes, agree. Yes, on masking. We have had testing on campus and ACCT suggests broader testing be done to avoid an outbreak and to keep numbers under control on campus. Yet, our Administration and Faculty have done a great job in these unprecedented times.
JCCC has implemented appropriate measures to accommodate the needs of those most affected by COVID-19. The hybrid and online option have been available for many years and most professors were well-equipped to handle those challenges. However, I believe it is just as important to offer in-person options for those who are not at a high risk of contracting and becoming ill from the virus. We must keep students safe, and we must also keep them engaged in their studies. JCCC should accommodate those who need to move to a fully online curriculum and students who want to be on campus. Studies show that hands-on learning and engagement are critical to graduation and retention. Our students desire face to face instruction, and it is our duty to make it available, safely. I believe in metrics that accurately reflect our student population. Most of our students are in a low-risk category and should be able to continue their education with little or no interruptions as more individuals get vaccinated. For the record, I do NOT support a mask mandate or a vaccine mandate for students or faculty.
Paul Snider (incumbent)
The College has responded well to COVID. An internal task force was quickly established and advised the president on appropriate protocols. The Board of Trustees has been advised of but has not voted on the measures.
In the Spring of 2020 and through the 2020/2021 school year, JCCC required masks on campus and most classes were migrated online. Fortunately, accommodations were made for students that had to be on campus to use special equipment and lab spaces. For Fall 2021, masks are again required, but approximately 70 percent of classes are in-person. Masks clearly aren’t universally supported, but masks are the best option to keep JCCC open. I think the College could be more flexible with masking requirements in large spaces when social distancing can be achieved, but on the whole has done a good job dealing with the pandemic. The College has also encouraged students and employees to get vaccinated and provided a financial incentive to employees.
Wayne H. Sandberg
Did not respond.
On Tuesday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:
Rising property taxes, caused in large part by increasing home valuations, continue to be a concern for many Johnson County residents. In recent years, the revenue JCCC collects from local property taxes has gone up even though the mill levy, or tax rate, has gone down. Should JCCC look to cut the property tax rate even further, in light of rising property values? In general, what is your philosophy on setting the college’s property tax rate?