COVID On Campus: Pensacola State College
In part two of “COVID on Campus,” our look at local colleges’ pandemic preparation for the upcoming academic year, we visited with Dr. Ed Meadows, president of Pensacola State College.
Even before the fall semester, the plan was changed. In light of the surge in Delta variant cases, President Ed Meadows originally said a mask mandate would be in place for inside campus buildings, regardless of vaccination status. Then Gov. Ron DeSantis spoke.
“After we made our plans following the CDC guidelines,” he said, “The governor came out with his executive order for K-through-12, which was different from the CDC guideline requiring masks, versus making masks optional.”
In an email late last month, Meadows rescinded the mandate, in favor of "strongly encouraging" face coverings for those not vaccinated. While the governor’s executive order was for K-12, higher education is under the same coordinating state board.
“In talking with other college presidents, it would be just a matter of time if it was necessitated by the governor to do a second executive order,” Meadows said. “So, we went ahead and those that had mandated masks, we went ahead and changed it to be parallel with the K-through-12 [policy] and, as I understand it, the university system as well.”
Elsewhere, there’s a continuation of what’s now underway at PSC, in keeping a close watch on the student body heading into the fall.
“We’ll continue to monitor those that become exposed, and/or affected and COVID so that we can advise them on the CDC protocols for exposure and infected individuals.”
PSC is also going back to the pre-pandemic status, regarding student and employee absentees.
“Where employees that become ill — regardless of whether it’s COVID or something else — and they follow the normal guidelines of taking leave,” said Meadows. “With students, the pre-COVID guideline was when a student was absent from class, they work with a faculty member to determine whether or not the student is eligible for make-up work.”
Other policies formed at the height of the pandemic last year are being dusted off, and Meadows believes that if there’s one positive from dealing with the pandemic last year, it’s given them a better grip on what to do with the current surge of cases.
“The knowledge that you learn going through it certainly helps you,” Meadows said. “We will continue to sanitize our facilities once a day after use, and we’ve installed in all of our buildings special kinds of filters for [our] HVAC system.”
As a matter of pride, Meadows points out that PSC did not have any COVID-19 infections last year, resulting from classroom activity. And he’s hoping that an increase in vaccinations eventually will lead to a drop in cases moving forward.
“We feel like the measures we have in place and the measures that we will continue, particularly with encouraging masking and making sure people understand that everyone should take personal responsibility for their own health. I believe that we’ll be just fine this fall,” said Meadows.
The new semester also signals the start of Pensacola State’s athletics. Last year, all sports were played at the same time last spring, which caused logistical problems, especially with transportation
“This year we’ll go back to the regular schedule of pre-pandemic; the main softball and the main baseball schedules will be in the spring,” Meadows said. “So that we’ll just have cross-country track [and] volleyball in the fall. And then basketball starting for men and women later in the fall.”
The key to a good academic year, says PSC President Ed Meadows, is minimizing infections of any kind, COVID, but also influenza and other ailments.