Mesa Legend
Masks and plexiglass, two fall semester COVID-19 precautions, separate MCC employee Taylor Holmes and student Tyler Kelly in the Enrollment Center on Southern & Dobson campus. (Photo by Nienke Onneweer)

What to expect on Mesa Community College campus as it comes back to life

In-person classes and student services have come back to Mesa Community College campus this fall semester, with pandemic precautions like required masks in place.

More than 1,000 in-person classes are being offered alongside hybrid and online options. Student services like admissions, academic advising, testing and financial aid are also now available in person in MCC’s enrollment centers.
Along with masks required indoors, the college is maintaining social distancing and daily cleaning protocols. Brad Kendrex, the Executive Vice President for Finance and Operations at MCC and Chandler-Gilbert Community College, said the college is sanitizing high traffic spaces multiple times a day and paying close attention to air circulation in buildings.

“It’s going to be, really, a hybrid approach to everything one is used to on campus,” said Kendrex. While the vast majority of last year’s activities were moved online, the fall semester will be both in-person and virtual. “We’re encouraging folks to seek out what makes the most sense for them.”

Libraries on both Southern & Dobson and Red Mountain campuses are also open for in-person services. While curbside pick-up is discontinued, face-to-face interactions like circulation and other services are separated by plexiglass.

Class sizes have decreased, though not by as much as first considered by the college.

“We started off setting our class sizes for the fall with lower class sizes to have a 6-foot social distancing,” Kendrex said. “Coming into this semester and given the rate of vaccination… we dropped that down. So, in many of our classes, we allow people to be up to 3 feet apart.” Some classes still maintain higher standards depending on enrollment and subject.

Vaccines are encouraged but not required, and Kendrex said there is no conversation on mandating vaccines by Mesa Community College or Maricopa Community Colleges.

“We’ve really been focused over the courseof the last, you know, nine months getting as many people that we have that want a vaccine access to a vaccine,” he said.

One way MCC is encouraging vaccination is offering students who receive their first vaccination from Aug. 23-28 a $50 grocery store gift card. Kendrex also said there is potential for the campus to be used for vaccine distribution if necessary for the community.

Mesa Community College still serves as a free COVID-19 drive-thru test location for Embry Health.

MCC academic analyst Sylvia Cook and prospective student Wes Whitehouse go over class options while masked in the Enrollment Center, one of many services to come back to campus this fall semester. (Photo by Nienke Onneweer)

As the Delta variant spreads through Phoenix and cases rise again, Kendrex emphasized moving classes fully online again this semester is not expected. He described the college’s current approach as a flexible, balanced approach with reasonable precautions.

“The best thing we can do to in order try to avoid any kind of changes is to encourage people to take a lot of responsibility… So, back to mask wearing, personal hygiene, getting vaccination if you’re so inclined to try to create as safe an environment as possible so we don’t have to have those kinds of changes,” Kendrex said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,234 new positive COVID-19 cases and 10 new deaths on Wednesday.

“We heard very loudly that students wanted to come back to campus and have more of a traditional experience and in-person groups and classes and instructors. So we tried our best to put a lot of that forward in the safest way possible,” he said.

Kendrex hoped students will feel safe on campus in the coming semester as the college tries to get students back on track with as little interruption as possible. He continued, “But we’re still continuing to offer, again, that variety, because we understand everybody’s in a different place right now, and we’re trying to help everyone manage their own risk.”