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OJC Press Release ID: 3050

Thursday, September 3, 2020

OJC Fall Semester 2020 Update


OJC’s Fall Semester is now underway. The school year has gotten off to a successful start. President Timothy Alvarez, Ph.D., shared the following comments with all OJC employees at the annual All-Staff Meeting at the start of the semester.

I am exceedingly proud of the effort, care and compassion of our OJC community of learners. It has been gratifying to witness the “can do” attitude, the team-work and selfless approach of our campus community.

I normally share an adage or aphorism during my welcome back comments to our campus community. This year I chose Sawubona: a beautiful African greeting from the Zulu tribe that literally means, “I see you, you are important to me and I value you.” It is the most common greeting of the Zulu tribe. I believe it is important for faculty and staff to feel they matter.

We developed our recovery plan with a set of guiding principles, the first being the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff. But we are experiencing a live, on-going experiment. The best laid schemes of mice and men, right? Not all of our plans will be successful and there will be some that need revisions but we are up to the challenge. So far, the start of the semester has been fairly uneventful, which is a tribute to the planning and dedication of our faculty and staff.

OJC would like to thank Rick Ritter, Dr. Janelle Maier, Su Korbitz and the rest of the staff at the Otero County Health Department for all the guidance and leadership they have given OJC during this pandemic. Ritter and his team have spent several hours with OJC’s Cabinet and the Athletic COVID Team to provide feedback and support for the recovery plans that were created.

KUDOS to our faculty and staff for their willingness to be flexible and offer a rigorous and high quality educational experience for our students, regardless of the delivery mode. I could not be more proud of how our campus community has responded, from our physical plant staff to vice presidents; they have been commitment to students’ success.

By the numbers: OJC has the highest percentage of first-generation students in the Colorado Community College System at 67%, two out of every three students. While two out of five students are Pell eligible. OJC is a majority-minority campus, meaning that over fifty-one percent of our students are students of color or multiple races. OJC has been an HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution) for decades and currently 38% of our students are Hispanic.

Over 260 students are living in the residence halls, including over 20 international students, who quarantined for 14 days. Most have since completed the quarantine. Fortunately, we have not experienced any COVID cases on campus.

Nearly one-third of our students are in health professions, nursing and medical lab technician, to name a few. Both welding and Law Enforcement Academy have nearly 20 each and we have 16 students in our teacher prep program. Overall, we have more than 1,000 students, and expect about another 200 high school students to be enrolled in concurrent courses.

Our athletic staff and coaches have done an exceptional job of recruiting high quality student/athletes. In total, we will have over 250 student/athletes. As you likely know, only golf and rodeo will compete this fall. The remaining sports are planning to have official competitions in the spring.

The campus was fortunate to receive $1,050,000 in state funding for capital construction and health and safety upgrades. The McDivitt Gymnasium renovations will be completed by fall of 2022 and includes fire protection improvements (sprinklers), egress improvements, entrance remodel, and locker room upgrades.

Congratulations to the TRiO staff for submitting a quality renewal grant application and receiving approval for the student support services grant for another five years at nearly $262,000 per year. This allows us to provide supportive services to first-generation, low-income, students with disabilities, and students from diverse backgrounds.

OJC will not be business as usual this year. While the goals have not changed, the delivery methods will be different. OJC still strives to deliver a quality, affordable education to all students and be accessible with small class sizes and responsive faculty. While there are some courses that will be held in the classroom, a majority of classes will be hybrid and remote learning. The classes that are being held on campus are being monitored and are following all state and local guidance when it comes to COVD-19 precautions.

Students, faculty, staff and guests will be required to go through a check-in process each day to have their temperature taken and complete a short health questioner. Wristbands will be issued daily to indicate that people have completed the process. Face coverings will be required when within 6 feet of others. Classroom and other gathering places have been re-arranged to accommodate social distancing, and signage has been placed throughout campus to remind people of handwashing, face coverings, social distancing and other measures to ensure health and safety. For more details and information, please visit the OJC FAQ’s for Fall Semester 2020 page at:

Press Release Photo
Otero Junior College administration and faculty met before students arrival on campus to discuss new protocols and procedures that are in place because of COVID-19. Pictured are the health professions faculty members and Calandra Lockhart, vice president of academic and student affairs.