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College Statements on Coronavirus

President’s Message to Employees

Dear A-B Tech Family,

Some of you may remember a time when you walked out of a bar or restaurant and all you carried out was the smell of someone else’s cigarette smoke.  Obviously, what you might carry out today has much more severe consequences.  So life has changed for all of us, and with this pandemic change, comes commensurate anxiety and uncertainty – for us as well as for our students and their families.  First let me say, as a person relatively new to A-B Tech, I am amazed at how all of you have pulled together behind the College’s mission to keep education moving forward.  Clearly, the mandate to convert all possible instruction to virtual and on-line would be onerous given a year.  Given less than two weeks makes it monumental.  But the ongoing discussions about other services to students show what this College is truly made of, and I can tell you that you are in a league by yourselves.  Likewise, all the services that do not directly impact students but are necessary to prevent disruptions in things like payroll, technology infrastructure, maintenance and so much more, these people are parsing out those things that can be done remotely and those that can’t.  I just want you to know that I, and the Executive Leadership Team, know what you are doing and the high level of commitment you have made to it.

So I want you also to know that, second only to our mission to serve students, our commitment to all of you is firm.  We have reviewed all of our employee policies that are relevant to this crisis, including leave policies, part-time pay policies, teleworking policies and others, making changes where we need to and even preparing a new Emergency Leave policy to take to the Board of Trustees next week.  Our commitment is that, regardless of your payroll status, you will not lose pay during this crisis as long as it is in our power to prevent it.  If you have particular issues that worry you, please contact HR and let them know.

And finally, I have always found community college work, with its life-changing mission, to be joyful work, regardless of my position in it.  That is why I stayed in it for 40 Years!  And if the joy is elusive at this time, at least look for it in “a job well done!”
 

Best,

Joe Barwick
Interim President


Monday, March 30, 2020

Accessing Resources for Online Learning
From Dr. Terry Brasier, Vice President of Student Services

 

Dear Students,

As we all move forward together during this pandemic, A-B Tech has transitioned most of our classes and colleges services online in order to comply with local and state emergency "stay at home" declarations. We know that not all students have access to computers, devices or internet services and have identified several resources to provide assistance. We hope the following information will help you overcome any challenges that you may have. 

  • Effective today, a Distance Education Lab is available in the A-B Tech/Mission Health Conference Center for a limited number of students who may not have computers or internet service. We have set up 18 stations that comply with social distancing and hygiene practices recommended by public health officials. The Distance Education Lab is open in the Conference Center between 9 am and 4 pm.

 

 

  • Several companies also are offering FREE broadband access to college students for the next 60 days in order to aid the sudden transition to online learning. However, we caution that you need to discontinue the service after 60 days to avoid being billed. Here are the companies in our area that are offering free service:
    • Charter/Spectrum
      • Charter is offering free broadband for households with K-12 and college students.
      • As of March 16, Charter commits to the following for 60 days:
      • Charter will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription and at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.
      • Charter will open its Wi-Fi hotspots for public use.
      • Spectrum does not have data caps or hidden fees.
    • Comcast
      • As of March 16, low-income families who live in a Comcast service area can sign up as new customers to receive 60 days of free Internet Essentials service, which is normally available to all qualified households for $9.95 per month. Comcast is also increasing the speeds for this service.
      • To qualify for Comcast’s Internet Essentials service, customers must be eligible for public-assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Housing Assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, or SSI.
      • Applicants can visit https://internetessentials.com to enroll in the program
      • Or call 855-846-8376 for English or 855-765-6995 for Spanish

 

We also encourage you to visit our Coronavirus Response web page for critical updates and its Helpful Resources page for college and community resources that may help you at this time. As always, we encourage you to contact us directly if you need assistance: 

  • For help with Moodle, the Distance Education Lab and other IT issues, contact the IT HelpDesk at via email at HelpDesk@abtech.edu, chat on the website, or by calling 828-398-7550. 
  • For emergency needs, please email Dr Terry Brasier, Vice President of Student Services, at terrygbrasier@abtech.edu

 

Thank you,

Dr. Terry Brasier
Vice President of Student Services


Friday, March 27, 2020

President’s Message to Students

 

Dear A-B Tech Students,

I’m glad you’re still with us and as ready as we are to get your education back on track and moving forward! Your faculty and Student Support staff have been working non-stop for these two weeks to eliminate as many barriers as possible in your education journey, and I am pleased to say that you will be able to complete the vast majority of your classes this semester.

Most of your classes have been transitioned to online and virtual instruction. For classes that must meet in person, we are investigating a number of options and will keep you informed. Please check Moodle for updates and information about your individual classes.

We also strongly encourage you to check your student email frequently for important messages from Vice President for Instruction Dr. Beth Stewart, Vice President for Student Services Dr. Terry Brasier, Financial Aid, Student Support Services, and other college departments that will help keep you informed as we all adjust to communicating online. I also encourage you to sign up for A-B Tech student text alerts, which will be the fastest and most direct mode for receiving our critical updates. To register, go to WebAdvisor, choose Update My Contact Information, check the box for text alerts, and enter your phone number and carrier. It takes less than a minute.

Finally, we have developed a Coronavirus Response web page, which provides a wide range of information about the college and our status during the pandemic, as well as helpful college and community resources. This page contains all college statements related to the impact of coronavirus, updates about our classes and services, and contact information for any department or service you may need to reach. If you don’t find what you need, email us at info@abtech.edu.

Our students are the heart and soul of A-B Tech and the reason we’re all here. Your health and safety, educational success, and future are our top priorities. You will hear from us often as we transition to online and virtual classes, but we also want you to reach out to us if there is anything you need. If we are unable to assist you, we will connect you with someone who can. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that you complete your education and achieve your dreams.

We hope to see you back on campus again soon, but Buncombe County’s StayHome, StaySafe emergency order mandates that we may only deliver classes and services online at this time.  We all appreciate your faith, patience and flexibility over the next few months. We will get through these unprecedented times together.

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Joseph Barwick
A-B Tech President


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Employee Communication about Emergency Declaration

 

Dear Employees:

No doubt you have by now heard news of the Stay Safe, Stay Home directive issued yesterday by Buncombe County, effective from  8 p.m. today through April 9. The good news is that A-B Tech and other educational institutions were declared “essential businesses”.  That designation allows us to conduct all activities that are essential to the delivery of online instruction and the continuity of our business, which covers most of our operation. Put another way, A-B Tech remains open for business and is not closed. We will resume curriculum classes online Monday and suspend classes that cannot be offered online until we can make other arrangements or reschedule them safely. Our other services, such as those provided by Student Services, HR, the Business Office and the Small Business Center, have already been transitioned online.

The steps we have taken to provide most instruction and services online and to enable most employees to telework are sufficient under this declaration. ELT members will inform their respective employees if there are essential services that require you to be on campus. Otherwise, you should continue to telework from home as directed.

What the declaration prevents is any in-person interaction with students or the public at our locations or any violations of social distancing guidelines. It appears that the only thing we will not be able to continue is a computer lab we had planned to operate for students. Instead, we will provide students with a list of hot spot locations where they can access our internet from their vehicles.

Meanwhile, I want to thank each of you for all you have done to calmly and professionally help A-B Tech navigate these uncharted waters. I want to assure you that your efforts are appreciated and that your health and safety is our top priority. We have been in close communication with Buncombe and Madison county officials to provide input and gain clarity on the emergency declarations concerning the pandemic and how we should proceed.  Here is a portion of the guidance shared by Buncombe County that may help clarify what you can and cannot do in the next few weeks:

 

Activities Considered Essential

In general, any activities that fall under these categories are permitted:

  • For health and safety
  • To get necessary supplies and services
  • For outdoor activities such as walking, hiking, running, cycling, using greenways
  • For work for essential businesses and operations
  • To take care of others (including friends, family members, pets and disadvantaged populations)

Things you CAN do:

  • Go to grocery and convenience stores
  • Go pharmacies for medications and healthcare necessities
  • Visit a healthcare facility for medical services that cannot be provided virtually (call first)
  • Go to a restaurant for take-out, delivery or drive-thru service
  • Care for or support a friend, family member or pet
  • Take a walk, ride your bike, jog (as long as social distancing measures are maintained)
  • Walk your pets and take them to the vet
  • Help others to get necessary supplies and services, including assisting disadvantaged populations
  • Receive deliveries from any business that delivers

Things you CANNOT do:

  • Go out at all if you are sick
  • Go to work, unless you are providing essential services as defined by this order
  • Visit friends and family if there is no specific, urgent need
  • Be closer than 6 feet from others if out in public
  • Visit loved ones in the hospital nursing home, skilled nursing facilities or other residential care facilities, except as provided by the specific facility
  • Travel, except for essential travel and activities
  • Engage in door-to-door solicitation

 Both Buncombe and Madison counties also have been clear that current emergency declarations are subject to change, pending further developments with the pandemic. We will keep you informed and adjust our operations accordingly.

 

Thank you again for your patience, resilience, and cooperation.

 

President Joseph Barwick


Friday, March 20, 2020

Spring Semester Update:

A-B Tech continues to monitor the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and put the health and safety of our students and employees first and foremost. We encourage all students, employees, partners and the public to refer to the Coronavirus Response alerts and web page for the most up to date information: abtech.edu/coronavirus-response.

When our Curriculum students return from Spring Break on Monday, March 30, all classes will be conducted online or virtually. Please refer to Moodle for information about your individual classes and remember to check your student email regularly for college-wide messages.

Most of our in-person Continuing Education, Workforce, and Transitional Studies/Adult Education classes have been suspended until we have clarity about when classes may be rescheduled. However, our Small Business Center and several other classes are continuing online and virtually. We urge you to check our website for updates and contact information for individual classes or programs.

If you need A-B Tech services or information about the college, please call 828-398-7900email info@abtech.edu, or refer to the Student Services and College Operations sections of the Coronavirus Response page for the most up-to-date information. Most services are now being conducted online or by telephone. The Bookstore and Business Office remain open at this time, but please check the website or call to confirm their status before coming to campus due to the rapidly changing environment.

Our Coronavirus Response web page also includes helpful information for employees, students and the community under Community Resources and  Employee Resources.

In accordance with the most recent guidance and orders from federal, state and local public health officials to practice social distancing and cancel gatherings of more than 10 people for the next eight weeks, A-B Tech has cancelled all public events, including the Commencement Ceremony scheduled for May 9. We will revisit whether this important celebration can be rescheduled once we have more clarity about the evolving pandemic, but all of our graduates will receive their diplomas and certificates.

We have witnessed the power, spirit and commitment of our A-B Tech family in recent weeks. We will get through this unsettling time by continuing to focus on our mission to serve students and our community.  


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Commencement Ceremony Cancelled

Our Commencement ceremony scheduled for May 9 has been cancelled due to the prohibition on large public gatherings of more than 50 people.  We are looking at alternatives for rescheduling this important celebration of student success and will provide updates as more information becomes available.


Sunday, March 15, 2020

Barber Academy and Health Occupation Programs Status

The A-B Tech Barber Academy and Health Occupation programs (CNA, Ophthalmology and Clinical Massage) will suspend classes and not meet until March 30. We will provide further guidance at that time. If you have questions, please contact your instructor, or Maria Spadaro, Associate Director, Workforce Continuing Education 828-398-7925, or email marialspadaro@abtech.edu

In response to the concerns of the potential spread of the COVID-19, Health Occupations courses will be suspended for 2 weeks starting today. This includes ongoing courses and those scheduled to begin in the next 2 weeks. Any changes will be posted on the website. For additional questions feel free to call 828-398-7960, or email teresamrobinson@abtech.edu.


Friday, March 13, 2020

Continuing Education, Workforce and Small Business Center Status

As the college observes social distancing practices the Continuing Education division and the various programs and locations will strategically plan to continue, postpone and cancel programs as warranted by best practices and the Governor’s directives. Please see the details below for the specifics in the various areas of operation.

The Small Business Center at Enka – The Center will remain open for clients and incubation program participants. Any appointments with volunteer counselors are canceled to be rescheduled in mid-April. Workshops with smaller attendance will continue and larger program gatherings will be rescheduled. For specific program information contact: Jill Sparks at 828-398-7949.

Community Enrichment Programs – Community enrichment programs are offered in different environments and many locations across our campuses. Contact Brinda Caldwell, Director of Community Enrichment at 828-398-7134 or email brindawcaldwell@abtech.edu for a detailed list of cancellations and postponements.

Workforce Programs – Workforce Programs include a broad spectrum of courses, training and that includes many partnerships and offsite locations. Included in this are the Health Occupations, Business & Hospitality, Computer and Online Training, HRD/Job Preparedness, Occupational and Skilled trades, the Barber Academy. For questions on programs outside of HO, please contact Maria Spadaro, Associate Director, Workforce Continuing Education 828-398-7925, or email marialspadaro@abtech.edu.

At this time classes will continue with the exception of our Health Occupation programs. Due to the nature of all our HO programs, nurse aid, massage, ophthalmic, starting Monday, March 16th, all classes currently operating at all of our campuses be suspended for a minimum of two weeks. Due to the nature of physical contact in these program areas, this is the most prudent and safe course of action for our students and instructors. In addition, we do not recommend beginning new classes until we as a college believe it is safe to do so. If you have any questions, contact Teresa Robinson MSN, RNCoordinator Health Occupations 828-398-7960, or email teresamrobinson@abtech.edu.

The only exception is the Pearson Vue testing scheduled for Saturday and Monday March 14 & 16.


Friday, March 13, 2020

Transitional Studies Update

Transitional Studies (Adult Education, Foundations, English Language Acquisition, High School Equivalency/GED) classes will be held the week of March 16 as scheduled.


Friday, March 13, 2020

A-B Tech Cancels Large Events in Its Facilities

Per NC Department of Health and Human Services recommendations, A-B Tech has cancelled all events exceeding 100 people for outside groups.

Groups impacted will be contacted directly by A-B Tech.

Internal partners such as Mission Health are exempted from this guideline.


Thursday, March 12, 2020

A-B Tech Extends Spring Break by One Week

Coronavirus Response Statement from Interim President Joseph Barwick

Out of an abundance of caution for the health of our students and employees, A-B Tech will extend spring break by one week and move to online and virtual instruction immediately afterward where possible.

Spring break is scheduled from March 16-20 and will be extended through Friday, March 27. Classes will resume online and virtually on Monday, March 30. The college will then reassess instruction delivery on a weekly basis based on guidance from Buncombe County public health officials. At this time, the county medical director has not identified any local cases of coronavirus or advised any local schools to close.

This is phase one of A-B Tech’s coronavirus response. The extra time during spring break will give administration and faculty time to complete assessing how to provide online and virtual instruction and identify which classes may need to be postponed until in-person instruction can be provided.

A-B Tech will remain open during this period and will continue to provide ongoing support services to students, prospective students, and employees. This two-week period without our nearly 7,000 curriculum students and more than 400 faculty members also will enhance the safety of our campuses due to the decreased population density.

Phase two of our response plan will address continuing education and adult education classes, as well as identify critical employees and update teleworking procedures.

A-B Tech already has cancelled its largest recruiting events of the year, which were scheduled for March 26-27, and discontinued out-of-state travel.

We encourage all students, employees and the public to refer daily to the college website for critical updates on the evolving coronavirus situation. We appreciate your understanding and patience.


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Find Your Future Events Moved Online

We want to reassure you that the college is taking steps to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus. We are updating the college pandemic plan, which was developed in response to swine flu in 2009 and used again for H1N1 in 2012. At this point, all federal, state and local public health agencies are advising that we follow Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance due to the dynamic nature of the coronavirus outbreak.

The best advice is to stay calm, listen to the experts, and follow the science.  The CDC advises that we can protect ourselves and others from coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, with these common-sense precautions: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water first if hands are visibly dirty.
  • We also have instructed our cleaning company, the Budd Group, to be vigilant about wiping down door handles and surfaces; however, this does not preclude us from cleaning as well. In addition, our departments have been authorized to buy hand sanitizer using your supply budgets through State Contracts: Contract 475A -  Concordance Healthcare Solutions, Henry Schein, McKesson Medical Surgical, & Medical Solutions; Contract 493A – Fisher Scientific, Krackler Scientific, VWR International; and Contract 445B – Grainger. If you have questions, contact Becky Watkins or Lisa Lankford in the Business Office.

We are actively engaged in Level I of our pandemic plan, which includes promoting precautions for stopping the spread of disease, as well as reviewing and updating the pandemic and infectious disease plan, identifying essential personnel, developing contingency plans for continuity of instruction and communications, and reviewing/developing HR policies and procedures.

We also are beginning Level II of the plan, which is activated when human-to-human transmission and outbreaks are confirmed overseas – and obviously also now in the United States and North Carolina. We are in active communication with the Buncombe County Health and Humans Services Department and will be part of any task forces and incident commands they coordinate. This phase also includes activating our communications plan to keep you informed of our current status.

The NC community college presidents also are communicating with each other in order to see how other colleges are reacting to this issue. If I hear of anything that has benefit to A-B Tech, I will pass it on.

We hope the coronavirus will not impact our community, but we are conscientiously taking every precaution and preparing for any potential threat. We thank you for your efforts and collaboration.