Staff members say that the vaccine may increase the likelihood of returning to campus in the fall. Additionally, the college can’t require students to be vaccinated unless Washington state directs them to do so.
In December 2020, the Employment Opportunity Commission published guidance that state employers can require employees to get vaccinated as a prerequisite of going to work. Pierce College won’t undergo the process of requiring staff or students to get vaccinated. Although the college can’t require the vaccine, Jeffrey Schneider, the district director of campus safety & facilities and Jose Nieves, the district safety and health specialist, have shared information with staff and students regarding how people can currently receive vaccines.
“The college is definitely supportive of employees and students getting vaccinations,” said Nieves.
In the meantime, Pierce will continue to follow directives and guidance from Gov. Jay Inslee, the CDC and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. According to Puyallup Campus President Dr. Darrell Cain, protecting students and staff is a key factor when weighing the decision of when to return back to campus.
“We hope that things will progress and we will be able to have some kind of return by fall,” said Fort Steilacoom Campus President Julie White, “The state of Washington has said that they want to have 70% of adults vaccinated by mid-summer and if that were to happen, or not, that would have an impact on our decision.”
Pierce’s mission statement will be essential in determining when certain classes are permitted back on to campus. The first principle discusses that the administration will consider equity and who will be harmed or helped by the result of the decision. The second is that the college will prioritize the students who are challenged by the online class format. The next principle is efficiently using the budget in order to make the return safe. Finally, the college’s decision will be based on the health and safety of the community, since staff and students are impacted by the decision.
Pierce College created an incident command system that consists of the executive team, campus safety, public and health relations who work together to manage through the pandemic. The team meets twice a week to be informed of the latest scientific discoveries, to update their safety guidelines and to make tentative plans for the future.
“I think that what you’re gonna see moving into the future is more hybrid courses than what was provided in the past,” said Chancellor Michele Johnson.
Prior to the pandemic, 20% to 25% of Pierce’s classes were already held online. Classes at Pierce will not return all at once, small quantities of classes will be slowly introduced to decrease the risk of exposure for students and staff. The specific classes to be brought back to campus is yet to be determined by the administration.
The administration will have the summer and fall schedule ready to submit by early May. Furthermore, if an organization needs to go on to campus there’s a “return to campus” form on the college’s website.
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