The pandemic has kept the Pierce College Health Education Center (HEC) closed since March, impacting staff and students who utilize the center for both personal health and team athletics.
With the HEC closure, all physical education classes are being held online. However, the college doesn’t accommodate students who don’t have access to workout equipment. This makes fitness classes impractical for some students as they have to provide their own equipment.
“We have seen a constant reduction of offerings and emphasis in PE as a college course,” said Duncan Stevenson, the director of district athletics at Pierce College.
This has encouraged faculty to propose plans to reopen the HEC. One of the plans being developed has precautions similar to the newly opened computer labs. Students would come to the HEC with a reservation, arrive properly dressed, bring their own water bottles and towels and sanitize their workout area after use. Additionally, locker rooms would remain closed, even for college athletes. The staff would also sanitize the workout areas after use with disinfectant foggers.
Athletics and physical education faculty proposed another plan where the HEC would only be open for student-athletes to practice. Students and athletes would not be permitted to use the workout equipment, the HEC would strictly be used for sports practices. Most practices would only be held at the Fort Steilacoom HEC building, though both plans are unlikely to be carried out.
“With the case counts going up in Pierce County, it’s not looking very hopeful at this point,” said Stevenson.
The staff at the HEC are mostly students, who for the time being don’t have their jobs. According to Stevenson, between 20 to 30 student employees have lost their jobs.
Even though the HEC is closed, students are required to pay a fee to pay off the building’s loan. The cost for each campus depends on how many credits a student is taking. The fee is $4.25 per credit for the Puyallup campus HEC and $3.50 for the Fort Steilacoom campus HEC.
With winter weather on the way, students might miss being able to have a place to exercise. The HEC offers large gymnasiums with various workout equipment, as well as sitting areas to socialize with others.
“We dislike the situation we’re in as much as the students do,” said Stevenson, “but decisions are being made in the best interest, safety, and well-being of both the students and employees.”
Ultimately, the decision to open the HEC on either campus will be made by the administration.
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