Blinn College announces phased return to campus, prepares for hiring freeze

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Blinn College will return to campus in three phases.

In a memo sent out to faculty and staff by Blinn’s Chancellor, Mary Hensley, the college has three phases on how it will return to on-campus operations.

Phase 1: The first phase is tentatively scheduled for Monday, June 15. Selected key employees will return to begin essential campus services that involve in campus work. Blinn personnel will be allowed to return to on-site work, either because they can most effectively do their jobs on-site or because their presence is required on-site for management purposes.

However, all in-person campus services will also continue to be offered remotely, according to Blinn College.

The college notes that if an employee is selected to return during this phase, they will be notified no later than Monday, June 1.

Phase 2: The implementation of this second phase depends on the success of Phase 1, but is tentatively scheduled for Monday, July 20.

If phase 1 is proven successful, more employees will return to work on campus, but the level will not exceed half of full-time employees in a given area. This phase will include additional employees who can begin to offer limited on-campus services made available by appointment only.

These services will be identified based upon the advice of public health officials, the College’s business needs, and the input of individual departments.

Employees that are selected to return to campus during this phase will be notified by Monday, July 6.

Phase 3: The progression into this third phase depends on the success of phase two, but is tentatively scheduled for Monday, August 17. In this phase, additional employees will be returned to campus to provide a larger selection of on-campus services. Personnel who were previously approved to work remotely will remain off campus until Blinn College further guidance from public health authorities, according to Blinn College.

Employees that are selected to return to campus during this phase will be notified by Monday, August 3.

On-campus, faculty and staff will notice changes to the environment to promote a healthy and safe culture: Plexiglass dividers at work stations, hand sanitizer stations, limited restroom occupancy, advanced cleaning protocols, face mask/face coverings are encouraged, and social distancing measures will all be in place.

The college will not be hosting events, meetings, banquets, luncheons, speeches, performances, and other gatherings for external organizations during the summer.

Additionally, Blinn College says it "will not host summer camps, campus tours, or recruiting visits on any of its campuses."

In regard to the Fall semester, the College states it will face "unique challenges," so it is also looks to implement additional strategies like self-certification and changes to Fall academic programs.

On Tuesday, the Administration presented the Board of Trustees with a proposed Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget of $105-million, representing a 12.4% decrease from the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget.

While this proposed budget includes a potential salary increase for full-time faculty and staff, it also anticipates a 10-20% enrollment decrease and significant declines in state funding and auxiliary revenues.

To accommodate these revenue shortfalls, Blinn will institute a district-wide, flexible hiring freeze for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

The proposed budget includes reductions in all departmental budgets and significant reductions in travel expenditures, including intercampus and conference travel.

Blinn staff says they have taken steps in an attempt to avoid the layoffs and furloughs that have impacted higher education institutions across the nation.

Blinn will also adopt a new interim regulation for the Fall semester that requires employees and students, prior to returning in August, to self-certify that within the last 14 days they have not been COVID positive, do not have COVID symptoms, and have not been in the presence of anyone known to be COVID positive.

Residence hall students who test positive for COVID-19 who are unable to relocate to their permanent residence will be moved to a separate facility the College has established specifically designated for self-isolation. Students requiring medical care will be treated as appropriate by medical professionals.

Students who test positive for COVID-19 may return to Blinn classes and activities after testing negative and after their return has been cleared by their health care provider or in accordance with the most recent local public health and medical guidance.

Faculty and staff who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to work remotely or take sick leave or other appropriate leave in accordance with Blinn policies and regulations.

These individuals will place themselves in self-isolation as determined by local health officials at the time of testing, returning to Blinn only after testing negative and being cleared to return by their health care provider or in accordance with the most recent local public health and medical guidance.

Housing: The Brenham Campus will offer student housing during the Fall semester. To ensure social distancing, one student will be assigned per room and students living in the residence halls will be prohibited from day or overnight visitors.

Common seating and gathering locations within the residence halls will be closed and occupancy limitations will be in place in common restrooms and laundry room spaces. Outdoor seating will be open but social distancing guidelines will apply.

Prior to move-in, students will undergo a screening process that includes a temperature check. Further, routine temperature checks will continue to occur throughout the Fall semester.

Food Services: Blinn will offer food services during the Fall semester. Plexiglass will be installed in appropriate locations and the floors will be marked to encourage social distancing in lines. All Food Services employees will wear facemasks and gloves.

The College will also provide meals to go. Dining area seating will be arranged to encourage social distancing and all dining spaces will undergo frequent cleanings.

Athletics: Blinn currently anticipates having athletics in the fall. The NJCAA, the two-year college intercollegiate sports governing body, will announce its plans for fall sports in mid-June.

After that takes place, Blinn will finalize plans regarding its fall athletic programs.

For a full breakdown of the phased return to campus, click on the link in the 'Related Links' section on this page.