“We’ve had a member of our family test positive”

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College president talks COVID-19 positive test of SAC groundskeeper, credit/no credit and graduation plans.

By Noah Alcala Bach


President Robert Vela announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 at this college.


Vela said the groundskeeper was tested March 31 for COVID-19 and received his positive result April 6.

Vela spoke to KSYM Program Director James “Hot Mustard” Velten on “Speaking of SAC” April 8 via Youtube live stream.

“We had been preparing people that we were probably going to have to send them home if it came back positive,” Vela said. “We took swift action.”

He added that the nature of the groundskeeper’s work kept him mostly isolated, and the building that houses groundskeeping operations was deep cleaned and the staff working there were sent home to quarantine for 14 days.

It is unclear where the groundskeeper contracted the virus.

“The most important thing is I know this gentleman and I want him to know that we’re all thinking about him and we want to see him back with a big smile doing everything he did for SAC,” Vela said. “I want to make sure that he pulls through this and we’ll see him once all this is over with.”

Because of the effects of COVID-19 on students’ semesters, Vela announced the Alamo Colleges will be joining a growing list of higher education institutions in offering a “credit/no credit” option.

Students were notified of this option in a district-wide email just hours after Vela’s announcement on April 8. Vela encouraged students to discuss with their advisers whether credit/no credit was the best option for them.

Students will still receive letter grades and must make at least a C to decide whether they keep that grade, or just take credit for the course with no impact on their grade point average.

But Vela warned some courses will not allow students to exercise the option.

“We do have some programs though — our high-wage, high-demand, highly skilled-type jobs where the accrediting agency said ‘There is no option. We cannot allow credit/no credit. It has to be a letter grade’,” Vela said.

The staff of this college was notified of the credit/no credit option via an April 7 email from Vice President Jothany Blackwood’s office.

A majority of college business is now conducted through email, Zoom and other online technologies.

Vela said that fewer than 20 essential staffers are still working on campus, which includes information technology, Alamo Colleges police and college services employees who have all been provided with protective equipment.

Some of the essential staff are distributing laptops to students. Vela said there are still 500 laptops available for students. Social distancing is practiced when students pick them up.

“We’re very careful about ensuring the social distancing kind of policies to protect you and the employees,” Vela said. “We have a robot with that iPad that walks out and greets you and takes your order. You never even have to face or touch a human being.”

The college is also offering other resources for students, including vouchers to support local restaurants.

A partnership also was announced between the college and Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia. Vela said the college is working with other unspecified local businesses in the Tobin Hill area.

Vela promised a “very special” commencement May 9 and 10 for graduates of this college even though they won’t be walking the stage until December. It still isn’t clear what this commencement will consist of.

Vela said the college doesn’t anticipate resuming in-person instruction until mid-summer at the earliest, and the summer schedule is being constructed to fit the remote learning format.


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