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Hawkeye Community College faces 'significant' losses from COVID-19 shutdown

Hawkeye Community College faces 'significant' losses from COVID-19 shutdown

Todd Holcomb

Todd Holcomb

WATERLOO — While students are transitioning to online classes, much of what Hawkeye Community College does outside of credit courses is falling by the wayside this spring.

A host of programs, services and events the college sponsors or holds in its buildings have already been canceled as administrators grapple with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This will be a financially challenging time for Hawkeye, President Todd Holcomb told the board of trustees this week as it met by video conference.

“It’s going to be tough to break even,” he said. “This could be a million dollar hit to our organization – or greater.”

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After the meeting, Holcomb explained that the biggest impact is in training provided through Hawkeye’s business and community division.

“A lot of our training has been cancelled or dropped,” he said, referencing various noncredit programs aimed at workers and companies in the college’s 10-county service area. In addition, other opportunities for events and services at college facilities are lost as long as the campus is closed to help prevent spreading the coronavirus.

“We don’t know yet what that financial hit will be, but it could be significant,” added Holcomb.

UPDATE: School districts shutting down; Hawkeye Comm. College going to online classes

A service that Hawkeye is the sponsoring agency for, the Senior Companion Program, is not continuing to operate at this time. Senior citizens with limited incomes provide friendship and assistance to other seniors through the program, allowing the clients to continue living independently. They receive a stipend to provide the services.

The program was stopped as people are strongly recommended to socially isolate themselves. Older people are considered a risk group to contract the highly contagious COVID-19 illness.

Holcomb said he and other Hawkeye administrators reluctantly chose not to continue it. “This was a heartbreaking decision for cabinet,” he noted.

Most employees of the college who are still actively working are not on campus, where only “designated personnel” are asked to report. There are “roughly 10 to 12 people who have been designated to be on campus to work,” said Holcomb.

Employees have been expressing concerns to him about keeping their jobs. “I made a commitment to pay our employees through the end of the fiscal year,” he said, or June 30. That includes 350 full-time staff and more than 350 part-time employees, including students. What happens beyond June will be looked at later.

Students, who were on spring break last week, are moving toward continuing their classes remotely through the internet. To help with the transition, the college loaned out about 100 laptop computers this week.

For career and technical classes, “we’re going to up our simulation programs,” said Holcomb, but many details around hands-on training still need to be figured out. Some classes could potentially be extended beyond the end of the semester.

“We’re taking everything into consideration,” he noted, with the goal of “getting to proscribed learning outcomes.”

No decision has been made to extend online courses beyond the second week of April, the time frame during which Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended schools be closed. However, he said officials are leaning towards continuing with online classes.

Similarly, “the decision about graduation has not been made,” said Holcomb. “But I fully anticipate that by the end of the week I’ll have a better idea of the direction we’re going.”

If the spring commencement ceremony is not held, graduates will be given a later opportunity to participate.

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Staff Writer

After 18-plus years reporting on local education, I’ve graduated to covering the city of Cedar Falls. Family and church commitments keep me busy outside of work along with lots of biking, rowing and skiing – pretty good for a guy with fake hips.

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