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Education

Collin College Ends In-Person Classes Until 2021, Publishes COVID-19 Dashboard

Glass front entrance of Collin Community College Wiley campus
Collin.edu
Collin Community College's Wiley campus.

Following a surge in coronavirus cases, Collin College will cease in-person classes beginning Monday until after the new year.

And for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the college of 35,000 mostly-commuter students is also posting an online COVID-19 dashboard.

The college system will close all campuses to in-person classes. Scheduled courses will continue online-only, and students won’t return to class until Jan. 11, after the school’s winter semester ends.

The changes come after the deaths of a professor and student, who both contracted COVID-19, and after Collin College professors expressed concerns about the absence of a public dashboard, as well as how the college president has tried to downplay the impact of the coronavirus.

70-year-old Iris Meda, a nursing professor, died in November after apparent exposure to the virus from a student. Separately, Rogelio Martinez, an adult student who attended Collin College’s technical campus in Allen, died in October.

History professor Michael Phillips and other faculty members have been demanding a dashboard since the summer.

"I think it’s a positive development and I think that should’ve been the policy from the beginning," Phillips said.

The college's COVID-19 dashboard lists the number of employees and students who volunteer that they've tested positive for the virus.

The weekly numbers, posted separately for students and employees, list totals compiled since late August.

In the most recent post — Nov. 28 through Dec. 4 — the dashboard shows 18 new cases. Of those cases, seven students took face-to-face classes and 11 are hybrid students, taking some in-person and some online courses. No online-only students caught COVID that week. In total, 306 students have tested positive.

Of the college's 2,700 employees, the dashboard shows 46 have been infected with the coronavirus. Since the beginning of October, new employee cases have been reported weekly, even before the recent surge.

"The magnitude of this tragedy, I think, is obvious," Phillips said. "The college is acknowledging that. There was minimization of the seriousness of the pandemic earlier. The college president described it as overblown. That’s kind of hard to claim now."

In an August letter sent to trustees, Collin College District President Neil Matkin wrote that the number of people who have died from the coronavirus “is clearly inflated.”

“The effects of this pandemic have been blown utterly out of proportion across our nation and reported with unfortunate sensationalism and few facts regardless of which news outlet one tunes into,” Matkin wrote.

College College administrators have declined to answer questions regarding Matkin's comments, the deaths of Meda and Rodriguez and the lack of a dashboard.

KERA on Wednesday asked Collin College for further comment, but didn't immediately receive a response.

Among all students, the school says a quarter are in face-to-face classes only, 40% are in a hybrid model with some in person and online classes and a third attend online classes only.

Got a tip? Email Reporter Bill Zeeble at bzeeble@kera.org. You can follow him on Twitter @bzeeble.

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