With Safety Protocols in Place, Hennepin Tech Continues Hands-on Learning at Brooklyn Park Campus
The Brooklyn Park campus of Hennepin Technical College is a quieter place these days. Yes, students are still in the building, but since the onset of COVID-19, the overall number of people who are physically here is limited.
“Anything that can be done remotely is done remotely,” said Joe Wightkin, Hennepin Tech’s vice president of finance and operations. “But we have a lot of programs you have to have hands-on. You don’t want someone changing your carburetor who’s only watched a YouTube video.”
In other words, when a class has a lecture component, students stay home and do distance learning. But when it comes time for the hands-on portion of the class, they come to campus. Provided that they’re healthy enough to do so.
“Everyone who comes to campus has to check in,” Wightkin said. “So there is a survey they have to provide answers to. And if they pass the survey, we do a temperature check. So that’s to enter the building. Everyone has to have a mask also.”
So far, Hennepin Tech officials say the process has worked. Between the Eden Prairie and Brooklyn Park campuses, the college could see anywhere from one to nine cases of COVID-19 in a given week.
If someone tests positive, the college does contact tracing and the person is quarantined for two weeks.
“If a program does have a small outbreak, it’ll affect a few students and then everyone is at home,” Wightkin said. “And when they come back, we continue on.”
Continuing on with business as usual is exactly what will happen at Hennepin Tech going forward.
Not impacted by new restrictions
As new restrictions go into place in place regarding bars, restaurants and gyms that are meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, hybrid learning at the college will remain intact.
“It is a relief,” Wightkin said. “It’s important for these students to keep on their education too. Anytime you have a gap, there’s a catch-up involved. And especially you do the hands-on training, you don’t want to lose that classroom book knowledge and then you can’t put it to application.”
Classes at Hennepin Tech already shut down back in March when the pandemic first hit. They do have contingency plans in place in case they encounter that scenario again, but the hope is that it won’t have to come to that.
“I think it’s important to the governor to have the higher ed still be, that’s important to him,” Wightkin said. “So if it can be done, let’s do it. And I think the controls in place do allow that to happen.”