WACO, TX — Some students returned to Texas State Technical College's Waco campus on Monday to a new way of conducting classes due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
TSTC says the students who returned will be taking intensive labs to complete the spring semester, which is projected to end May 29.
The return to on-campus instruction is authorized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which has identified career and technical education as an area of education that can continue under Gov. Greg Abbott's Executive Order No. GA-16.
Programs must meet guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I am excited to welcome back our students to the Waco campus," said Patti Tate, interim provost. "I cannot wait to see the different face coverings that our students have made or purchased. We have a creative student body, and I know they will not disappoint."
Classrooms and labs looked a little different upon the students' return.
Jannifer Stimmel, an instructor in TSTC's Auto Collision and Management Technology program, said she rearranged work tables so students could be 6 feet away from each other.
She also emphasized to students the need to sanitize and wear safety glasses, gloves and face coverings.
Students in Stimmel's Basic Paint Techniques, Equipment and Environmental Practices class walked in Monday morning having already heard the semester's lectures online.
They began the day sanding and scuffing panels. Stimmel said she was glad to see the students in class.
"As a teacher without students, you are missing a part of yourself," she said.
Mason McClanahan, of Tomball, an Auto Collision and Management Technology - Refinishing Specialization major, said it felt great being back on campus.
"Hands down, it feels good to get work done," he said.
Cody Musia, lead instructor in TSTC's Welding Technology program, said he and other faculty members designated entrances and exits where students sign in and out of their portion of the Industrial Technology Center.
Yellow and orange stripes were painted on the floor in front of each welding station.
The colors indicate a morning and an afternoon session for students as they convert to six-hour "shifts" in the lab.
Musia said students heard lectures while they were away from campus.
And, he said online lectures will continue this summer, with students coming to campus to work in extended labs.
Michele Brown, lead instructor in TSTC's Culinary Arts program, said she met each Monday since late March with her Fundamentals of Baking class to conduct lectures and give quizzes.
The students even sent photos and videos to her to show off their progress. She said she understood the challenges some students had, including having to share a computer at their home, poor internet service and balancing family life. Upon the students' return, the class has adjusted to new social guidelines by being split into two groups that meet on different days of the week.
Colleen Jones, an Instrumentation Technology major from West, said she was ready to go back to the classroom.
"We are excited to get back together," said Jones, who is also a campus general academics tutor.
"We have to stay 6 feet apart. We are excited to finally see each other and collaborate on our projects to finish. It has been hard to do on our own."
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.