Troy Moon, Pensacola State College
Pensacola State College President Ed Meadows was in his office on the Pensacola campus, where he has been during much of the COVID-19 pandemic, steadying the Pirate ship amid a sea of worldwide turmoil.
The campus is closed – as are all PSC campuses and centers ─ to students and the public through the end of the spring term. However Meadows said much of the staff, faculty and administration have worked throughout the crisis to ensure the College’s stability, and, its success in the future when the nation emerges from COVID-19.
“I think our leadership has responded very well,’’ Meadows said. “Dr. (Erin) Spicer and the department heads worked through the College’s spring break to get us moving forward as quickly and effectively as possible.”
PSC campuses and centers have been closed since March 23, but classes were transitioned to online and resumed on March 30. While many PSC faculty were already familiar with online teaching, some had to be instructed in conducting online classes using Canvas and other online tools.
“A lot of our faculty stepped up and mentored colleagues to make sure this transition to online went as smoothly as possible,’’ Meadows said. “We’ve had our MIS (Management Information Systems) staff working non-stop to step up our technology. We’ve had people reporting to campus to help us through this period. Some came in to help with the business aspects of the College – moving forward and paying the bills. People from every department have been coming in to do the work that needed to be done here on campus. They’re working as hard as they can to recreate some kind of normalcy.”
Meadows admitted that normalcy, as it is now, did not come easy.
“There were some major issues with us trying to move classes to online,’’ he explained. “But those issues were not insurmountable.”
PSC has ramped up its cleaning efforts and is strictly enforcing social distancing guidelines. But Meadows said it is important that the college meet its educational mission and fulfill its commitment to its students and the community. Even though Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issues an executive order – a “safer at home” directive – for the general public to last 30 days. Those excluded from the executive order are essential services, including colleges and universities.
“Safety is the top priority for me and everyone else,’’ Meadows said. “Yet at the same time, we have to get people at the College working at full capacity. It’s their jobs and we know there are challenges, but we have to make sure everyone is either working remotely or at their office so we can continue the successful operation of the College. There are some hard decisions for our staff and supervisors,’’ he said, adding some supervisors are working flexible schedules to ensure only a minimum amount of people are in a certain location.
Meadows, like many health officials and medical experts, believes the COVID-19 virus could be a seasonal threat.
“Like the flu, it’s here to stay and we need to learn how to manage it. We have to be more conscious about hygiene and social distancing yet be able to manage to do our jobs for our students,” he said.
A benefit of the crisis, while not diminishing the health and economic distress the Coronavirus has caused is it has forced the College to move quicker to embrace new technological methods and instructional tools.
“It’s like any war,’’ Meadows said. “Some good things come out of it, and for us, that is the acceleration of using technological methods that some might have been more reluctant to use previously. It’s forcing people to look at what technology can do to help them teach and educate their students.”