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Local News

Joliet Junior College president says taking classes online in fall 'critical' to preparation

Joliet Junior College President Judy Mitchell speaks about the fiscal health of JJC on Thursday, July 5, 2018, at her office in Joliet, Ill.
Joliet Junior College President Judy Mitchell speaks about the fiscal health of JJC on Thursday, July 5, 2018, at her office in Joliet, Ill.

The head of Joliet Junior College said the early decision to announce most of its fall classes would be held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic was "critical" in preparation for the semester.

JJC President Judy Mitchell explained, during a Zoom interview with The Herald-News this month, the early announcement would allow for any kinks to be worked out ahead of time.

During this past spring semester, when the state was under a "stay at home" order due to the outbreak, Mitchell said, JJC had to convert about 1,400 classes to an online format in about two weeks. Well ahead of the fall, Mitchell wanted instructors to have more time to correct any "glitches" for next semester.

"It was critical to make that announcement early to allow our faculty to prepare," Mitchell said. "We know there is going to be a new norm for what life looks like for a while."

JJC announced in May it would hold all of its lecture classes online in the fall, and would allow for some lab classes to be held in-person. Mitchell said holding lecture classes online was an "easier decision."

Mitchell added that JJC was taking a number of measures to allow for in-person lab classes even during Phase 4 of the governor's plan to reopen the state.

Phase 4 allows for gatherings of only up to 50 people or fewer. Mitchell noted JJC buildings and classes could easily reach 50 people on a normal basis. So, she said the college has had to stagger schedules for labs to allow for cleaning in between sessions.

She said there will also be temperature checks, masks provided and hand sanitizer stations to allow for a safe environment.

Another key uncertainty was JJC's revenue projections for next year. Public health measures taken to slow the spread of the novel virus devastated parts of the economy, which impacted revenues for governments at all levels.

Mitchell said there was reason for optimism on the enrollment front as many students planning to go to a four-year university may choose a cheaper option.

"For our parents, it's a much better economical decision to have your students stay local and take those same online classes for there (general education requirements) at Joliet Junior College, saving significant money," Mitchell said.

While the state government kept its funding for colleges flat for next year, Mitchell said JJC will remain cautious on matters like new hires in hopes of more aid from the federal government in the future.

Watch the full video interview with Mitchell on theherald-news.com/video.

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