Peninsula College adapts to pandemic

Dr. Luke Robins

Dr. Luke Robins

WORKING FROM HIS home studio, Peninsula College Ceramics Instructor Steve Belz records ceramics demonstrations and raw materials lab lectures for his nine students. It’s also where he meets with his students via Zoom every week for four hours for critiques and general troubleshooting.

In a metal cabinet just outside the ceramics studio on the Port Angeles campus, students collect glazes and tools for class and drop off finished work. He collects the work they have made at their home studios, and loads them in the kilns to fire them.

In April, when the college began spring quarter online, he arranged for each of his students to collect a pottery wheel from campus. Even delivering one to a student’s home in his van.

Steve is not alone. Since we made the decision in March to move instruction and campus operations online for spring quarter, our faculty, staff, and students have gone above and beyond to make this new way of operating not only a reality, but a success. Foremost on our minds is keeping students on track to reach their educational goals.

Since its humble beginnings in a portable classroom at Port Angeles High School in 1961, Peninsula College has flexed and adapted to meet the needs of students from across the north Olympic Peninsula. It’s fair to say that 2020 has handed us our toughest challenges yet. We are committed to upholding the college mission and staying the course, however that looks in this time of uncertainty.

Here is just a snapshot of what we’ve been doing to help our student reach their goals:

As of June 12, PC has awarded about $523,000 in federal CARES Act funds. The total $580,200 allocated to the college can be granted to students for expenses such as room and board, tuition, childcare, health care, food, and technology.

In addition we have established free WiFi hot spots in the parking lot of our Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Forks campuses, donated personal protective equipment (PPE) and hospital beds to our partners on the front lines at Olympic Medical Center, created a drive up food delivery system for Pirate Pantry users, and established a resource page on our website to connect students with campus and community resources, including mental health counseling.

Limited in-person instruction, in programs considered essential by the governor’s office, such as nursing, welding and medical assisting, took place at the end of the quarter. Following the state’s guidance, we are observing social distancing, PPE and enhanced cleaning protocols. We have also implemented an automated computer check in system, and are using health screening protocols to ensure the safety of those on campus.

I want to say this to current and future students — your path might look a little different now, but your future is still waiting for you. We’re here and ready to help you stay on track and meet your educational goals, no matter what life throws at you.

Summer quarter begins online July 6, with enrollment open through July 2. Fall quarter classes start Sept. 28, and we’re currently making plans for how our courses for fall will be delivered.

We are privileged to know our students by name, and likewise, many of their stories. As a small, rural community college, we are uniquely poised to help our students and our community during this time when financial and emotional challenges have been exacerbated. Your dreams and needs should not be put on hold. Let us know how we can help you realize your goals.

One final note: Our students this fall will face significant financial and personal challenges. If you’d like to help address student need, please consider donating to the Peninsula College Foundation online at pencol.edu/foundation.

Every dollar donated will help PC students, and our community toward a brighter future.

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Dr. Luke Robins is the president of Peninsula College, which is based in Port Angeles with branches in Port Townsend and Forks.

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