District Board of Trustees Learns About Valencia’s COVID-19 Response in First-ever Virtual Board Meeting

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

During the first-ever online District Board of Trustees meeting held via Zoom on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, College President Sandy Shugart shared Valencia College’s monumental response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Prior to Spring Break, approximately two-thirds of Valencia’s courses (4,276 course sections) were being delivered in a face-to-face or mixed-mode format, he shared. Nearly 50% of our more than 1,800 faculty members teaching this spring were not teaching any online classes, and nearly 50% of our more than 45,000 students enrolled this spring were not taking any online classes.

With support from our Teaching and Learning team, our faculty successfully transitioned 4,085 (more than 95%) of these courses online in only two weeks.

“It was a phenomenal two weeks in every way, and we did what we previously thought was impossible,” Dr. Shugart conveyed to the board. “It’s pretty amazing what our team did in a short amount of time. I am very grateful for the team Valencia College has.”

He explained that Valencia College’s two goals during this time are the safety and health of our students and employees, and the continuity of student learning.

“We know that if we interrupt our students’ educational journey, they may never get back on path,” he added.

Looking ahead, Dr. Shugart explained that we will deliver all classes online for the summer term, and that while enrollment was initially slow, it has now picked up and is currently on track to be at the same level or ahead of last summer. He also mentioned that the College should prepare for an increase in students, as some will be unemployed with a desire to increase their skills; others may not return to an out-of-town college with student housing and turn to Valencia for a more affordable alternative; and others may delay going off to college and turn to Valencia in the meantime.

Sandy also shared:

  • Valencia has acquired 1,000 new laptops that students who express technology needs may borrow for summer term.
  • student technology survey revealed that 35% of students do not have access to a webcam, and that the digital divide of our students is a concern as we focus on equity.
  • As part of the “We’re In this Together” campaign, Valencia employees are calling the nearly 38,000 students who were enrolled in face-to-face or mixed-mode courses that moved online.
  • All student services have been moved online, including the creation of a Virtual Answer Center.
  • All of Learning Support has transitioned online, including tutoring.
  • We are experiencing unique challenges with international students, since many embassies and consulates are closed, routine visa services are suspended worldwide, and there are travel bans/restrictions worldwide and unfavorable exchange rates. To retain students, we are encouraging them not to leave the United States; communicating the challenges of leaving and the difficulties associated with returning; offering tuition grant for summer and fall terms; and offering the ability for students to enroll in online courses in their home country.
  • A human resources update including that employees have been paid for scheduled hours since Monday, March 16, 2020; the majority of employees have transitioned successfully to remote work; the limited employees who are working on campuses are maintaining Centers for Disease Control guidelines for physical distancing; the majority of vacant positions are frozen; and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act has been implemented, providing employees Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family Medical Leave.
  • The Office of Information Technology team has implemented Zoom video conferencing, distributed computers to employees for remote work and set up key users with VPN for remote access.
  • Campus Operations updates including that our Campus Store operations have moved 100% online; Security still maintains a presence at all locations; and Facilities has conducted a deep cleaning of all campuses.
  • Business and Finance updates including that Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable and Purchasing are processing remotely, and we successfully negotiated a Tuition Installment Plan contract.

New Grade Options for Students
The board approved adjusting the 2019-2020 College catalog to include the new R20 and S+/S-/U final grade designations, designed to mitigate the impact of the significant disruptions created by the pandemic on students’ academic performance.

Temporary Academic and Student Affairs Procedural Changes
As a result of significant disruptions from the pandemic, trustees approved the College implementing a number of temporary procedural changes in Academic and Student Affairs to support students’ academic momentum and success. For example, students who enroll in a third attempt of a course usually must submit an appeal to request an exception from paying the full cost of instruction. The Board’s action will allow the College to approve an exception for all students who were unsuccessful in their second attempt of a course in Spring 2020 term, without requiring that each student submit an individual appeal. For the entire list of approved Academic and Student Affairs procedural changes, click here.

Faculty Association Update
Faculty Association President Stanton Reed shared his appreciation for the hard work of Valencia College faculty, staff and Faculty Development team during the transition to online learning. He then presented the following video about online immersion featuring Professor of EAP Steve Cunningham, Professor of Portuguese Richard Sansone, Professor of Mathematics Stephanie Kokaisel and Student Jaylin Knibbs.

Other non-COVID-19-related topics covered in the meeting included:

West Campus Traffic Circle
The board approved the College to enter into an agreement with Gomez Construction Company for the construction of a West Campus traffic circle, subject to negotiation of a mutually agreeable contract. The traffic circle will be located at the intersection of Valencia College Drive and Metro Center Blvd.

Online Proctored Testing Services
Valencia currently provides in-person proctoring of assessment testing in our Assessment Centers. In order to support the online modality growth, an online proctoring solution is needed to enhance the services provided for students. Trustees authorized Valencia to enter into an agreement with Honorlock, Inc. for the purchase of a license to use its online proctoring services for an initial two-year term with an option to renew for two additional one-year terms. This is the same vendor that the University of Central Florida uses for online proctored testing services, making for an easy transition for students who transfer.

Legislative Update
Sandy Shugart presented the following bills of interest:

  • SB 72 was passed, which allows a Bright Futures Medallion Scholar to receive a 100% scholarship — instead of 75% — if they enroll at a Florida College System institution.
  • HB171 was passed, which provides for award of credit for military courses, training and occupations and waives transcript fees for veterans.
  • SB 62, failed, which would have required colleges to waive charges to private, secondary schools for tuition, fees and instructional materials for their dual-enrollment students.
  • HB 6001, failed, which would have removed prohibition against concealed firearms and weapons on college campuses.

Additionally, the Lake Nona Building 2 project request was not funded. No new Florida College System projects were funded; only certain ongoing or renovation projects received funding.

2019-2020 Annual Fire Safety, Casualty Safety and Sanitation Inspection 
The State Requirements for Educational Facilities requires that annual fire safety, casualty safety and sanitation inspections be completed each year. During the inspection performed in February and March, there were no deficiencies noted in the inspection of all College buildings, which encompasses more than 2.5 million square feet. For the past five years, there have been no deficiencies.

For more information on the meeting, visit the meeting webpage.

The next District Board of Trustees meeting will be held online on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, via Zoom.

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