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Community colleges prepare to reopen for fall semester

Gaston College will have a hybrid of in-person and online classes.

DALLAS, N.C. — Gaston College is preparing to reopen for the fall semester through a combination of in-person and online classes as the region continues to record COVID-19 cases.

Many of Gaston College's programs, including its health sciences degrees, require in-person classes so administrators are making several adjustments.

As part of its "GC Safe" plan, all the desks in classrooms and computer labs are spaced out six-feet apart.

Everyone must wear a mask on-campus, and some buildings will have temperature checks at the entrances.

Gaston College President Dr. John Hauser said before a student walks onto campus, s/he will be asked to anonymously answer health questions online or through a smartphone app.

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As the semester continues, if more people answer they're not feeling, he said the college may put in more restrictions.

"We're taking every precautionary step to care for our college family and our communities," Dr. Hauser said.

Dr. Dewey Dellinger, the Vice President of Academic Affairs, said the college and its programs must meet certain education requirements to maintain accreditation.

But since the pandemic, he said accrediting associations and state licensing boards have allowed more flexibility, particularly with hands-on courses.

"[It] allowed us to do more with simulation; allowed us to do various things to substitute for some of those clinical experiences," Dr. Dellinger said. "For instance in cosmetology, [students] did a lot more work on mannequins and wigs."

Mary Johnson will soon be graduating from the college's medical assistant program.

RELATED: Parents struggle as schools reopen amid coronavirus surge

"When we went from a seated class to a totally online class, it was very challenging," Johnson said. "For people that didn't have any hands-on experience at all in healthcare, in order for us to be an efficient medical assistant, we needed that hands-on [education]."

Johnson said she's happy to be back in a classroom.

"When COVID first hit, we were all scared we were going to lose that opportunity," she said. "But now here we are, and we've overcome those challenges."