After face-to-face classes came to an abrupt halt following spring break, Neosho County Community College President Dr. Brian Inbody said his campus turned into a ghost town.

But after months of preparation to resume classes on campus — coming up with personal protective equipment and obtaining ionizers for the HVAC units to purify the air — students made a safe return to the college over the weekend.

Every student arriving on campus was tested for COVID-19. Inbody expected several positive cases over the weekend, but to his surprise of the 220 students who will reside on campus, only five tested positive. Those students were sent home to self-isolate before they could return.

“I do want to make it clear that none of the five students had any interaction with the citizens of Chanute. All five made their first stop at the college,” Inbody said. “Their only interaction with people here were with the people who took their test.”

Inbody said the school purchased a house near the school to house up to five students who tested positive and had plans of isolating other students in the residence hall, but there was no need for that. 

“Fortunately, we did not need the home we purchased. This has been a strange time for all of us. We operated out of basically a ghost town because we didn’t have any students on campus. For a lot of us, working with students is the reason we got into this profession,” Inbody said. “So seeing students back on campus was refreshing and rejuvenating for us. It’s not the same – we have new protocols that have changed what a normal school year would look like – but it’s a joy to see students on campus.”

The school entered its first official day of the 2020 fall semester on Monday and faced its usual problems. 

“We had the typical problems of needing to find larger classrooms due to late enrollment, things of that nature, but everything went as we had hoped.

“Things have changed a bit. I had a student complain to me about not having access to the waffle maker. I explained to him, ‘Well, if you touch it then we have to sanitize it for the next guest.’ These are minor struggles that we will have to get sorted out. Now I am wondering how I am going to get waffles to all the students,” he said with a laugh. “These are good problems to have.”

Students will be subjected to random testing every week in order to keep a healthy campus. Inbody said the goal was to make the college experience as normal as possible during uncertain times.

“A lot of things remained the same. Of course, everyone had to wear a mask and remain socially-distanced, which is different. And we are only having 13 weeks of in-school classes before we all start working remotely,” he said. “Going into the year, everyone faced a lot of fear and trepidation, but now that we are all here on campus, we just need to work together and ensure that we practice all of the protocol so we can have as normal of a school year as we possibly can. So far I have been impressed with everyone.”

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