COVID On Campus: Pensacola Christian College
As we get closer to the resumption of classes at all levels, Pensacola-area colleges are putting together their plans to operate during the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic. In part one of the three-part series “COVID on Campus,” We begin with Pensacola Christian College.
“We’re looking to reopen and be as normal as possible,” said Dr. Jon Lands, executive vice president at PCC, and in charge of the school’s COVID-19 game plan.
“Our focus is more towards personal responsibility; encouraging everyone to maintain their health, monitoring it daily,” Land said. “Masks, social distancing are still strongly encouraged – but not mandatory.”
Since it’s a private institution, Pensacola Christian is not under the mandate of the Florida Board of Education, and thus not subject to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates. Lands says they’re aware of that situation, and take that into consideration in making their own plans.
“Some practices that are being required, we are going to follow-through with as we see necessary,” said Land. “So I don’t know that would give us an advantage. I do think that we try to benchmark against what the other schools are doing to make certain we are following best practices, though.”
Classes at PCC will be at or near full capacity, says Lands, with a return to full in-person learning for 2021-22.
“And the last two semesters we offered full online as well, Land said. “We have a position that we feel in-person learning is our strongest opportunity to educate, so we want to return to that. But we’re also using some more sustainable procedures, concerning how we contact-trace; we’re making certain that we’re not reactive, but we’re responsive.”
“Responsive,” as defined by Lands, is making sure that asymptomatic close contacts are quarantined in their own rooms. Last semester, those under quarantine were moved to another residence hall, which he says was not manageable.
“We find this a better sustainable, manageable operation to get us through the remaining portion of this pandemic,” said Land. “If they’re symptomatic on day 10, we will allow them to be released with self-monitoring, but we highly encourage that they maintain social distancing and wear masks until they reach day 14 and have no symptoms."
One legacy that COVID-19 is expected to leave behind is that many schools will continue to use practices developed at the height of the pandemic. Pensacola Christian is no different.
“For instance, on our campus we added picnic table all around the campus for students to go outside and eat, to limit density in our dining halls; and that’s something we’re keeping,” Lands said. “We’re allowing them to have a ‘grab and go’ lunch and they can go outside and enjoy that. So there are some good things that are coming out of a bad situation.”
Being a faith-based institution, Pensacola Christian College’s Jon Land says they incorporate their faith into the fight against the coronavirus, and now the Delta variant. But he adds it’s only part of the equation.
“We ultimately understand, as believers, that our health is in our Lord’s hands, but He has also given us a responsibility to exercise good wisdom,” Lands said. “We have a balanced plan, I believe, that does just that.”
In part two of “COVID on Campus,” we shift over to the public institutions of higher learning, beginning with Pensacola State College’s strategy in coping with the pandemic.