College of The Albemarle: Working to keep it safe while keeping it open

Published 11:03 am Thursday, September 10, 2020

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The College of The Albemarle Dare campus is open for business. On-site instruction, student services and daily operations started once again on August 17 after a busy summer of developing a comprehensive safety plan for students and staff alike.

Timothy Sweeney, dean of COA Dare, took some time on a recent afternoon to walk around the campus buildings with The Coastland Times. He spoke to what safety measures have been implemented to protect against COVID-19 transmission and how although college may look different this semester, the school has committed to providing courses for the community during this challenging time.

“It really is amazing what everyone has come together to do for our students,” Sweeney said. While applying certain guidelines, such as making it mandatory to wear face coverings and maintain social distance, COA has taken it one step further.

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Making use of their soon-to-be torn down building, Sweeney shared that the glass from the older campus building’s windows had been remade into shields for receptionist areas. In the library, rooms are reserved for one student to make use of at a time and computers are spaced apart to ensure a safe distance is maintained.

COA has limited access into buildings and meeting spaces. All campus locations are currently using a single point of entry and classes that require students to be on campus have moved desks and workspaces to help keep six-feet of distance between students and instructors.

In an effort to mitigate spread, COA has chosen to not hold any large gatherings or campus events and has introduced “Wellness Stations,” which are located on campus to provide information on COVID-19, sanitizing resources and directions on where to go in the event someone were to feel ill.

“We want to keep it safe, but keep it open,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney said COA has started a Student Assistance Program (SAP) and Work-Life Services program to help students address personal or school-related challenges and concerns revolving around academics, finances, legal services, online help and much more.

“This is a free program for our students,” Sweeney said. “These are challenging times, and we want to make sure our students know there is help out there if they need it.”

Another way COA has reached out to help their students is by creating the “COA Cares” program. Students are welcome to come into the library and help themselves to two-three days’ worth of food, all donated by staff.

“We wanted to do something to help our students that may be suffering from financial trouble,” said Patricia Peterson, librarian at COA Dare. “We have some exchange students that are here all by themselves. This, hopefully, will help.”

Classes are up and running at COA Dare, and as Sweeney walked through the campus buildings, he noted the exciting new features the school has in store.

In the welding department, a new space is currently in the works. Brand new stations have been installed, and the bigger work space will allow for more instruction in the industrial welding space.

HVAC units from the old building were brought in for HVAC students to work on separately instead of in groups. “Our students are still able to get that hands-on learning,” said Sweeney, which is crucial to the success of many career paths offered at COA.

In-person lab classes in full swing include HVAC, welding, jewelry-making, EMT, nursing and more. While classes are limited to a certain number of students in lab per time, they have still managed to bring students while staying safe and learning.

In terms of advising, students are prompted to contact their advisor via email to make arrangements for virtual advising sessions. Katie Cross, coordinator, international student services and academic advisor, said the COA advisors have made themselves available for students during this “new normal.”

“I think our students have been very understanding, and our instructors and advisors have been very understanding as well,” Cross said. “Everyone has had to adjust, but we’re making it work.”

Late-start classes are still open for registration, and will start September 15. For more information on COA, visit their website at



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