Pierpont reports no COVID cases amid 'smooth semester' thus far

Chip Hawkins, building maintenance manager for Pierpont Community and Technical College, sprays a computer lab with a cleaning mixture before classes begin. For a story about the start of the semester at Pierpont, see page 7A.

FAIRMONT — Students of Pierpont Community and Technical College began their fall semester on Aug. 17, and of the students who have returned in-person, none have tested positive for COVID-19.

College CFO Dale Bradley said the weeks have gone by without incident, with just a few faculty members and students having to stay off campus, due to potential exposure to a person who had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“We have had no reported cases of COVID,” Bradley said. “We had a couple faculty and staff who have been told to quarantine because they had been in contact with someone somewhere that had COVID, but none of them have reported being contagious.”

According to Bradley, the college tested students who would be on the Locust Avenue campus, which Pierpont shares with Fairmont State University, while other students have been taking general education classes online to minimize the population at the Advanced Technology Center.

“We moved our gen ed classes to online; those are our biggest classroom classes,” Bradley said. “This allowed us to social distance in classrooms that have more technical skills.”

Lyla Grandstaff, vice president of student services at Pierpont, said the college distributed goody bags filled with safety supplies to students who would be attending classes on campus. She said there are not many students at the ATC, because the only in-person classes being held are for hands-on programs.

“We do have our culinary arts students, our early childhood students, our energy students, our health careers students,” Grandstaff said. “Those are students who have a lot of hands-on training, so they are in the classroom.”

Grandstaff also said the college held its opening ceremonies virtually, including orientation and students’ meetings with counselors. While most of the school’s student service offerings had been available online prior to the pandemic, Grandstaff said, everything a student would need in terms of services is available now in a virtual format.

“Everything is online, all mental health initiatives and disabilities services, everything is online,” Grandstaff said. “Every service that we provide is online at this time.”

In order to keep the students safe who are on campus, the college has bolstered its supply of special cleaning supplies to disinfect the rooms at the ATC. Bradley said cleaning crews make their rounds throughout the day, and use a special electrostatic disinfectant.

“We are disinfecting buildings, multiple times a day some of the high-touch areas,” Bradley said. “We actually bought some different type of disinfecting equipment, it’s called electrostatic disinfectant, and it allows you to disinfect an area much quicker than you can through the normal process.”

Bradley said he believes the absence of a residential student population has helped to keep contact between students low. Aside from a few students who live on campus through Fairmont State, everyone else who attends Pierpont commutes to the school for class.

“Except for a few students we have in dorms through Fairmont State, we don’t have a large resident population,” Bradley said. “I think that could be the source of many colleges’ problems is that residential population.”

Grandstaff said this semester has so far been going smoothly for students, due to preparations made during the summer. She also said the college is planning virtual events to keep students engaged, which are available to every student.

“We have done a lot to try to keep our students engaged,” Grandstaff said. “Although it has to be virtual, it seems to be working well, we’re getting students that are engaging.”

With the semester calendar was shortened due to the concerns about the coronavirus, Grandstaff said she believes Pierpont, its staff and students, are prepared to adapt to anything. Based on how most people have already adapted, she believes the semester will continue to go well.

“This is probably one of the smoothest fall terms that we have had,” Grandstaff said. “Our students have been so patient, so understanding with all of the changes. This is a fluid situation, things can change daily.

“I feel like we prepared the campus community pretty well for what we’re doing, and they embraced it.”

Email Eddie Trizzino at etrizzino@timeswv.com and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.

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News Reporter

Eddie Trizzino has been a reporter with the Times West Virginian since August of 2017, covering the entertainment, business and health beats. He spends most of his time listening to records, going to the movies and strolling through the town.

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