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TSTC campuses focus on safety, offer online instruction this fall



ABILENE, TX – Safety will be the top priority at Texas State Technical College when the fall semester begins Aug. 31, on the four West Texas campuses, located in Breckenridge, Abilene, Brownwood and Sweetwater.

The fall will have a different look this year as students who need to complete labs will be allowed on campus, but all other instruction will be delivered online.

“Our primary goal is the safety of our students, faculty and staff in this era of COVID-19,” said Lance Eastman, West Texas’ interim provost. “We have put in several safety measures to ensure that safety.”

Everyone must wear a facial covering while on campus, and social distancing guidelines will be enforced, Eastman said.

“I know it is hard sometimes to maintain social distance. But for the safety of everyone, we are going to practice it,” he said. “We not only want the students, faculty and staff to protect themselves, but everyone around them.”

Buildings will be marked with directional signage to show entrances and exits. Hand-sanitizing stations will also be available in each building.

Since March, TSTC has provided online lectures for students, and Eastman said it will continue in the fall. In May, students were allowed to return to campus to complete lab sessions.

Eastman said continuing to provide hands-on lab sessions is important to the college’s mission of placing people in the workforce.

“We will still do a lot of the hands-on lab sessions because it is important the students get that training,” he said.

Daniel Martin, TSTC’s director of student recruiting in West Texas, said students are excited about the new way of learning.

“The students are pleased with how the courses are being constructed. The online lectures, coupled with lab time, are perfect for them,” he said. “This is a better use of a student’s time. It is not a classroom-heavy situation for them.”

Martin said prospective students will also be able to tour campuses, but with limitations. Tours must be reserved and will be limited to three guests per tour.

“We are excited to get people back on our campuses to show students what we offer,” he said. “We had some tours during the summer, and everyone followed all of the protocols we had in place.”

In Sweetwater, safety is also the top priority for housing director Jose Navarrette. Since it is the only West Texas campus with student housing, additional safety measures are in place.

Navarrette said each student will have a private bedroom but share a bathroom. He said students will learn the proper way to sanitize the area to help prevent the spread of contagions.

“We will have room checks to make sure all the rules are being followed,” he said. “We had some students living on campus this summer, and everyone followed all the rules.”

Navarrette said students were assigned days to move in prior to Aug. 31. He said that was done to help limit the amount of people on campus.

“Safety is the key for us. We want students to know that we have things in place for their safety and the safety of everyone on campus,” he said.

Rick Nelson, supervisor of TSTC food services in Sweetwater, said meals will continue to be sold only to go. Students will enter the Student Center’s main entrance and leave through the cafeteria’s glass-door exit.

TSTC will also provide three new programs in West Texas this fall.

In Breckenridge, an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Safety Compliance Technology will be offered. Students will learn the hazards of machines, safe work methods, first aid, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation procedures during the five semesters.

Two Occupational Skills Award programs are scheduled this fall. Basic Welding – Multiple Processes will be available in Abilene, while Basic Automotive will be taught in Sweetwater. Both courses will be 15 weeks and are part of TSTC’s Rapid Industry Skills and Employability (RISE) program that helps students learn skills quickly in order to start a career.

“It is always good to provide new programs at TSTC,” Eastman said. “We want to provide our students with the tools to prepare them for the workforce. The OSA programs will allow us to quickly educate students to get them to work. That will help better our economy.”