GALVA — Black Hawk College’s Quad Cities and Kewanee campuses will be reopening for the fall semester Monday, Aug. 17, with students able to choose from a full schedule of "blended" classes being offered through in-person and online learning formats.


There will be limitations to the number of persons allowed in the bookstore and computer labs, there will be no food service, and library services will be online only.


But Executive Dean Jeffry Hawes says there will definitely be a "student presence" on campus as BHE sees enrollment dropping only by about 40 percent from last fall's number.


"We've heard of some (colleges) with only 50 percent of last year's opening enrollment," Hawes said. "We anticipated a decline in enrollment. It could have been a lot worse," he said.


Extended registration ended July 29 with an enrollment of 490, according to Hawes. Last year's 10-day enrollment figure was 802, putting this year's figure, so far, at 61 percent of last year. Last-minute registration continues through Aug. 14. When all enrollments are counted, the final figure is expected to be somewhat higher.


Hawes said students have seemed to understand that even what the college is doing isn't quite what they expected and that they still have confidence in the safe and accessible learning environment the college faculty, staff and coaches have prepared for them. He said it’s encouraging that a large number of out-of-district students were still enrolling in BHE agriculture and equine programs, despite all of the uncertainty.


"Following the safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Restore Illinois Plan, Black Hawk College continues to be committed to providing students with the best possible learning experience under the circumstances," according to the college's "Reopening and Fall 2020 Plans."


Beginning Aug. 17. courses will be online except for those that require face-to-face instruction. Those classes will be blended, with online lectures and face-to-face labs. Access to campus buildings and student services will be available, though anyone entering is expected to follow health guidelines.


All visitors to campus, including employees and students, must wear a face covering while in any of the college facilities and meet the requirements in the COVID-19 screening notice posted at building entrances. The notice asks a number of screening questions about contact with COVID-19 within the past 14 days. The facility entry plan for fall 2020 calls for temperature checks, masks and social distancing. Those who do not meet the guidelines will not be allowed to enter. The college will continue to conduct health assessments and temperature testing at the main entrance of Building A. All other entries will remain locked and will be accessible by appointment only.


Those who show no signs or symptoms will be given a sticker allowing access. GED and ESL classes will also begin Aug. 17 at the Community Education Center in Kewanee through a combination of online and in-person instruction. Temperature testing will also be conducted at the entrance to the CEC. Those needing access to the adjacent Welding and Skilled Trades Center will be checked at the CEC.


Hawes said practices and workouts for competitive teams in the ag and equine programs, most of which are held outdoors or in large indoor arenas, will continue with appropriate measures taken by those involved. Move-in days for students housing horses in the East Campus stable are set for Aug. 14-16. Participation in contests around the country will be determined based on if they are held and what the travel considerations would be in each case.


"If a case of COVID-19 occurs on campus, Black Hawk College will work with and at the direction of the Illinois Department of Public Health to take immediate steps to respond to any health and safety risk to students, employees and our communities," the college reopening plan states.


Black Hawk College has arranged with local health providers to conduct testing if and when there is a potential exposure on campus or at the CEC. Although summer classes were conducted online, the college has made a concentrated effort to stay in touch with incoming and returning students through Facebook and its website. Virtual tours of the campus and virtual orientation sessions were provided online for new freshman. Registration for fall classes was available online and virtual visits with faculty, advisers, and other students were offered on Facebook. A week-long livestock judging camp was even held online.


LaDrina Williams, BHC’s vice president of student services, partnered with foundations at the East and Quad Cities campuses to purchase 115 laptop computers for students who need them. The college also offered free, live online learning sessions in July to help students build skill levels and confidence in time management and remote learning.


Online learning is nothing new to Black Hawk College. An advertisement in the Aug. 5, 2000, Star Courier, the college invited students to take online courses at either campus. "Work anywhere with internet access. Interact online with faculty and other students. Arrange coursework to fit your schedule," were the main selling points of the ad. That was 20 years ago. BHC now offers a wide selection of hybrid and online classes including an Associate in Arts degree that can be completed 100 percent online.


In a letter to students earlier this summer, BHC President Tim Wynes said, "We believe the steps we are taking will provide the structure necessary for you to achieve your academic goals and the flexibility needed to adapt as circumstances change. COVID-19 reminds us that very few things in life are certain. One thing I personally believe is certain, however, is that the value of a quality education is the cornerstone of a better future."