OLEAN — It has been nearly a year since Paula Snyder was named executive director of the Cattaraugus County Campus of Jamestown Community College.
When JCC’s president, Dr. Daniel DeMarte, named Snyder to head the Olean campus on Aug. 4, she was director of Student Health Services for Jamestown Community College, a post she’d held since 2005.
Before that, she served as Olean campus nurse from 1992.
Snyder continued serving as JCC Student Health Services director after she was named executive director of the Olean campus — until a new Student Health Services director could be found.
That happened in February with the appointment of Shawna Trudeau. Then, in March, the coronavirus hit and Snyder found herself at the center of the college’s response to the pandemic.
The campuses were closed and classes continued online.
College officials including Snyder have been working since the campuses closed to make sure students would be able to attend at least some face-to-face classes this fall.
“When I moved from Student Health Services director into the executive director’s post, I brought my health service knowledge with me,” Snyder said. “I served in both roles until the end of February. Now I’m back to managing health and wellness.
“Students are a wonderful population to work with,” she said. “They have a lot of physical and emotional needs.”
This fall’s semester will be a hybrid opening at JCC campuses. There will be some in-person classes in socially distanced classrooms with students and teachers wearing facial masks. There will also be a lot of hand sanitizer.
The face-to-face classes will be for students who feel safe to come to the campus, Snyder said. The faculty have developed online Zoom courses that are designed to move toward face-to-face classes.
Then there is the all online instruction version. The college has for many years pioneered online classes that can be viewed anytime and students submit papers by certain deadlines.
“We have the ability to do it all online,” Snyder said, noting that as much as 30% of courses will probably be offered face-to-face. How many students will be allowed in a class will depend on the size of the classroom.
“A reopening team is in the final stages of developing a health and safety plan,” Snyder explained.
Holger Eckanger, vice president of workforce readiness, is in charge of operations and academics teams developing the plans. He also chairs the reopening plan.
The three pillars of the plans are to manage the 6-foot distancing rule, masking and hand sanitization.
“The overriding theme is health and safety first,” Snyder said. The plans will be posted on the JCC website.
How many students are expected to enroll for the fall semester? Last fall there were 1,062 students, up from 1,034 the year before.
“We’re getting ready with marketing and media campaigns with a heavy push” on safety, Snyder said. “Last year we turned around a long enrollment decline. Everybody is watching what COVID is doing. We are trying to balance bringing students back with safety. We will be watching it very closely.”
Snyder said, “Things are really coming together well. We’ve had good dialogue across our teams and across campus. We’ve been working on this since April. Things change day by day. We don’t know what is going to happen.”
Whether public school students go back to school in September affects JCC students, Snyder noted. If children are not in school, their parents may not be able to attend the community college.
Snyder also wants more time to work on re-energizing the campus.
“Dr. DeMarte said he wanted me to reintroduce JCC to the community and work with local groups — spiritual and cultural — to help restore lost connections.
“COVID aside, it’s been a wonderful year,” Snyder said. “I’ve been managing health and wellness here for 28 years. This is a bump in the road. My goal is to keep this campus moving forward.”