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Spring Commencement Postponed, Part-Time Employees Paid At Northern Community Colleges

Northern Wyoming Community College District

The Northern Wyoming Community College District has announced it will postpone spring commencement ceremonies as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter sent to students, faculty and staff, District President Walter Tribley said students will still graduate and receive diplomas this spring, and that they hope to reschedule commencement for December.

To ensure social distancing of its students and faculty, 75 percent of the district's classes are now online and around 25 percent of classes are hybrid delivery, Tribley said. But some classes require in-person instruction or special equipment, such as welding, and this disruption could affect students' plans.

"Some students may choose to put their education on pause. I want our students to achieve success. But these are choices. As a college, we have to be prepared that some students will choose to postpone," Tribley said.

The district is working on ways to address these challenges while also making sure students and faculty can abide by health recommendations and guidelines. Tribley said this also might give students some extra time to make up coursework.

He added the decision to postpone spring ceremonies was a difficult one to make.

"It's one thing I can postpone, take that enormous workload and shift it to a different time when we can focus on our students and focus on their achievement, potentially give more students time to complete," Tribley said.

In the letter, Tribley also said the district is committed to paying its hourly part-time employees and student-employees-even if they can't work. These are jobs that don't provide sick leave or vacation.

"We're considering the economic health of our workforce and hoping that contributes to the economic health of our communities," he said.

He said while most part-time employees can work remotely, a few do have jobs that must be done in-person or with others.

"Some of our workers are on federal work study and are students. And some are working other jobs but make no mistake, those students need those jobs. They need those jobs to be successful in college," Tribley said.

"So the very institution, that is doing what we can do to support student success, were to remove those part-time hourly jobs for these two weeks in the face of an unanticipated pandemic, we would invariably in many cases harming our very students ability to stay engaged with their studies."

Tribley said this support will run through the end of June for part-time employees and through the end of the semester, May 22, for student-employees. Employees who are working limited hours during this time will be paid based on average hours they worked prior to the closure.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Catherine Wheeler, at cwheel11@uwyo.edu.

Catherine Wheeler comes to Wyoming from Kansas City, Missouri. She has worked at public media stations in Missouri and on the Vox podcast "Today, Explained." Catherine graduated from Fort Lewis College with a BA in English. She recently received her master in journalism from the University of Missouri. Catherine enjoys cooking, looming, reading and the outdoors.
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