As of Monday, August 31, the fall semester is back in full swing at Niagara County Community College (NCCC) and the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute (NFCI), though it looks a bit different than past semesters. COVID-19 forced the College to switch to a fully remote format in March, but the facilities personnel have been working for months to prepare both campuses for the safe return of students. This means limiting access to buildings through one access point, allowing for tracking of entrants for contact tracing purposes, and the completion of daily health screenings.
For new students, orientation was experienced virtually for some, and for others, it meant wearing masks and sitting six feet apart in line with the mandates from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. In science and culinary labs, individual stations have been created using plexiglass barriers to allow for maximum safety while still allowing full access to the tools and equipment needed to effectively learn. The campus is visibly vibrant with students walking the halls, though they are wearing masks and eating pre-wrapped meals in the snack bar.
Student Life is still making the most of the “new normal” and offering a full calendar of COVID-friendly socially distanced events on campus and virtual activities for the student body to enjoy. Welcome week activities included a drive-in movie in one of the campus parking lots and continued with online Trivia, a chalk festival where students showed off their artistic abilities outdoors, and a Chicken Wing Festival where Student Life treated students to lunch outdoors.
Heather Trumble, a Technical Assistant in Student Life notes the importance of these experiences in helping students feel more connected and to build lasting relationships. “So far the students have been very positive and have been happy to see that there are options both in-person and virtually. We still have clubs, social activities, and even some community service opportunities for them at this time.” Trumble also mentions the “Taste of Fallfest” event that is planned in the coming weeks, which is a smaller version of the typical fall activities they offer for the campus community. While the pandemic may have adjusted the college experience for some, it is not dampening the spirits of students or the opportunities for meaningful engagement and networking outside of the classroom.