Dr. Kim Krull has watched first hand as Butler students and faculty work together during this COVID-19 pandemic to achieve success.
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Like most schools around the state of Kansas and throughout the country, Butler Community College is in some unfamiliar territory. However, they’ve stepped up and made the best of a tough situation.
"We’ve taught online classes for 20 years," BCC President Dr. Kimberly Krull said. "Our IT team and those who’ve taught online classes stepped up to help those who hadn’t taught and helped with the learning curve."
While many may see Butler as this big two-year college, the word community shined in the midst of a pandemic for Butler. Their commitment to getting students online in only a short amount of time.
As the pandemic hit the United States and schools, such as Harvard and Stanford starting going online, the flood of other schools around the country followed. Butler did as so. They were in a lucky point as the students were on spring break when they decided to transition the remaining school year online and then gave the students an extra week so the school could complete the transition.
"I’m amazed how the college has come together and dealt with the crisis," Lori Winningham, Vice President of Academic Affairs, said. "When we looked at the numbers, we had fewer withdrawals this year than we did last year. That speaks to the commitment to the students and to get them through a difficult time."
While the sports aspects of college have been the most publicized in terms of cancelations, others left a gaping hole in what should be a completed school year. From Phi Theta Kappa having their big catalyst conference moved to online to no spring musical or recitals. Many students missed out on closing out their school year.
"It is like ending a sentence without a period," Winningham said.
Butler plans to honor those sophomores in a virtual commencement ceremony on May 29th. Recognizing those who worked so hard to finish their time at Butler are getting at least the recognition they deserve.
"What’s so special about the nursing pinnings and the range of students who may be the first to graduate or they graduated and then went into the work force decide to come back to school and finish," Krull said. "We are going to make the commencement as special as we can for everyone."
Many schools around the country have already made the decision to be online in the fall semester, BCC continues to wait. The hope is to have students on campus but in what capacity, that remains to be seen. BCC will take their cues from the state board of regents on how they want things to be handled. The expectation is to have on campus classes in the fall.
"People thrive on human interaction," Krull said. "I miss being close to the people I work with. We miss being around each other."
They did move to online in the summer, limiting the amount of bodies on campus in the summer. They have an incentive. For every six hours a student completes in the summer term, they’ll receive a three-hour credit for the fall semester.
"We put in an initiative called ‘Summer Plus.’" Winningham said. "We felt the best way to reward students for their work in the summer is we can give them a three-hour scholarship in the fall."
As the state lifts the stay-at-home order, the school is looking into how certain programs, such as welding can be an in-person class by taking certain precautions, not limited to one door in and out, wiping down all equipment between uses and cutting down on class sizes.
For BCC, classes sizes may be their big advantage of getting back on campus for learning. With a class sizes of 15-18 for a typical class, stay within recommendations of six-feet separation may be a possibility. However, for now it’s unknown how that will work out.
"We’re not flooding back to campus on Monday," Krull said. "We’re going to faze back in carefully."
Much like their students, the educators are now adapting and learning as well. The hope is that those instructors who may have been uneasy about teaching online will see the benefits of having a class online.
"I’m proud of [of the hard work by the faculty]," Winningham said. "Creative has emerged and it will have changed our culture. Online can work and I know that it meets the needs of students have other needs outside of school."
As BCC waits to find out what the next step is for them, the feeling is they aren’t doing it alone, person-by-person. They’re doing it together.
"We’re going to figure out what we have to do and move forward," Krull said. "We’ll be proactive and do this together."