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US Colleges Mull New Virus Protocols for Students’ Return

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In this Nov. 12, 2020, photo, a University of Vermont student walks toward a tent leading to a COVID-testing site on campus in Burlington, Vt. As coronavirus cases are surging around the U.S., some colleges and universities are rethinking some of their plans for next semester. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

COLCHESTER, Vt. (AP) — St. Michael’s College managed to keep coronavirus cases at bay for almost two months this fall with students tested upon arrival and once every three weeks.

But in mid-October, cases at the small Vermont school started to climb. The outbreak was linked to an ice rink more than 40 miles (64 kilometers) away. The liberal arts college shifted to all-remote learning and closed the campus to visitors. By November, a total of 76 of the roughly 1,600 students had tested positive, the school said.

“It was very concerning to experience the spike in cases that we did after so many weeks of surveillance tests with no positives,” President Lorraine Sterritt said by email.

When students come back for the spring semester, St. Michael’s will begin testing them weekly. The college may also require students to move to a separate residence hall when they are told to quarantine.

The coronavirus presented huge challenges for the fall semester for U.S. colleges that opened the academic year with in-person learning, including some that took a battering from outbreaks. Those not joining the growing number that will offer only virtual learning are assessing how they would bring students back after the winter holidays while the country faces crushing rates of virus infections.

Schools that are bringing students back are adjusting testing protocols, introducing new screenings, and eliminating spring breaks to discourage students from traveling to help keep campuses open.

Other schools big and small think it’s still possible to keep a pandemic-era residential college experience.

California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo plans to add saliva testing in the winter quarter that will be processed on campus and will allow it “to test many more people much more quickly — our current estimate is 4,000 tests per day by mid-January,” President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a campus-wide message this month.

In the spring semester, Colby College in Maine wants to add some rapid antigen tests to twice-weekly tests for students, faculty and staff. It also did away with the one-week spring break replacing it with two mini-breaks in March and April.

“We’ll program stuff for the campus so people get a break,” Chief Financial Officer Douglas Terp said.

More schools are expected to require students get tested before they come to campus rather than when they arrive, as some institutions did before the fall semester, said Barbara Mistick, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Institutions like Syracuse University in New York abandoned in-person learning earlier than planned this fall but are planning on a resumption of campus life next semester.

But a growing number of schools will stick with virtual instruction through the spring.

“We are seeing a rapid rise in colleges and universities announcing they will move to remote learning for the remainder of this semester and for the spring,” said Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

George Washington University in Washington, D.C., for one, announced early last month it will continue most of its classes virtually.

Student cooperation with protocols helped to keep the number of coronavirus cases low at the University of Vermont’s campus in the small city of Burlington, President Suresh Garimella said.

On a recent day, students wearing masks streamed through a tent outside the student center where they are required to be tested weekly. They stayed apart, stopped at a station to sanitize their hands and blow their nose and then proceeded into the indoor testing center.

“It’s part of my routine,” said sophomore Brian Boyle of the testing.

The school received federal coronavirus relief funding for virus-related expenses like testing, but Garimella estimates it will spend an additional $10 million to $15 million.

There are also a lot of precautions in place, rules for social distancing and the maximum number of people in a group, Boyle said. It’s harder to get together with people socially, but he said students can find ways to go about it and still follow the rules and be safe.

“You know being outside in small groups and stuff,” he said.

As cases rose in Vermont and at UVM in November, though, he said he was becoming a bit concerned about whether the spring semester will be in-person.

“My biggest concern is probably that people will become more relaxed with their individual social distancing/quarantining measures over winter break,” he said by email. “I can only hope that people will remember how important these safety measures are, and will continue to practice them for the sake of their health and for the sake of our education.”

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Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness Coming March 2023

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WINTER PARK, Fla. (Florida National News) – Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness, inspired by the children’s TV host and icon, comes to Orlando in March 2023. This week-long series of events was announced today at the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park.

“Fred McFeely Rogers devoted his entire life to reminding us of some of the most important ideas of what it means to be human among humans: love, respect and kindness,” explained Buena Vista Events & Management President & CEO Rich Bradley. “Many of us find that nearly 20 years after Fred’s passing, it is important to focus on his teachings once again, perhaps now more than ever. This is a week to re-engage with his massive body of work with some folks, and to introduce his teachings to others.”

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness begins March 20, 2023, the date which would have been Fred’s 95th birthday, and concludes on Saturday, March 26 with the Red Sweater Soiree, a community dinner to recognize ten ordinary members of the community who inspire and exemplify the affinity that Fred Rogers had for showing kindness to our “Neighbors”.

Mister Rogers Week of Kindness coming March 20-26, 2023. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Activities planned for the week will include early childhood education activities and faculty training, as well as events open to the public.

“The events will be offered free or at low cost,” continued Bradley. “This week-long celebration is not a series of fundraisers, but rather about once again remembering and sharing some of the great work that Fred Rogers created, not only in early childhood education, but in reminding us that we are all part of one big ‘neighborhood’. Fred taught us the importance of accepting our Neighbors just the way they are and engaging in kindness with our interactions. I can’t think of another period in my lifetime where we needed to reflect on those messages again more than today.”

“There are three ways to ultimate success,” Fred Rogers was once quoted as saying. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

Many of the activities of Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness will be attended by members of the cast and crew of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 – 1975, and again from 1979 – 2001. David Newell, known as “Mr. McFeely,” the “Speedy Delivery” man, appeared at today’s media conference via video, and looks forward to visiting Central Florida next March.

David Newell, “Mr. McFeely.” Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness is supported by the McFeely-Rogers Foundation, the Fred Rogers Institute, and Fred Rogers Productions. Details regarding the specific activities and venues will be released over the next few weeks.

For more information on the events, visit https://www.BuenaVistaEvents.com or https://www.MisterRogersWeekofKindness.com.

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Orange County Government, Rollins College Announce 3-Year, $4M Partnership to Provide Nonprofit Training Support

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Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings (right) and Rollins College's Crummer Graduate School of Business partnered to announce the launch of the school's nonprofit assistance program. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Orange County Government and the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College today announced a three-year, $4 million partnership to provide nonprofit training support through Crummer’s Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership, the region’s premier source for nonprofit education and management assistance.

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News

Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act in Orange County, the program will equip local nonprofits with the tools necessary to succeed in the post-pandemic environment. Specifically targeting small, and diverse Orange County-based nonprofits, Empowering Good: A Nonprofit Capacity Building Project is designed to offer training in five key areas: impact measurement, innovation, financial management, fundraising, and risk management.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings speaks during the press conference announcing Crummer's new program launch. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings speaks during the press conference announcing Crummer’s new program launch. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

“Nonprofits play a central role in the wellbeing of our community here in Orange County. Despite increased demand for their services during the Covid-19 pandemic, many of our community’s nonprofit organizations were being adversely affected by the pandemic in potentially devastating ways, directly impacting essential services in Orange County,” said Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings. “Deploying American Rescue Plan funds in partnership with Crummer’s Edyth Bush Institute will help us provide the resources necessary to ensure the long-term success of our nonprofit community.”

The cohort-style program administered by the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership, will support up to 36 Central Florida nonprofit organizations every six months over the next three years as well as offer organizational assessments and coaching for up to another 15 organizations for a total of 261 nonprofits, starting in September 2022. Training provided by the Edyth Bush Institute throughout each year-long program will include workshops, assessments, coaching/consulting services, and custom programming to address organization-specific challenges.

In assessing how to deploy its American Rescue Plan funding, Orange County Government sought to address needs in six key areas, with one of those areas being small business assistance. Alignment with the Crummer School’s mission to produce global, innovative, and responsible leaders who impact their organizations and communities, as well as the Edyth Bush Institute’s wide-reaching nonprofit network, provided an ideal partnership that would enable the County to bolster small businesses within the regional nonprofit community.

Crummer Graduate School of Business Dean Dr. Deborah Crown speaks during the press conference. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

Crummer Graduate School of Business Dean Dr. Deborah Crown speaks during the press conference. Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News.

“This exciting partnership with the Orange County Government will reach beyond nonprofits to the many organizations and individuals who benefit from their programs and services,” said Dr. Deborah Crown, dean of the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. “Our incredible staff at the Edyth Bush Institute embrace this opportunity to further guide our local nonprofit leaders to continue to spark innovation and create jobs for our economy.”

Demand for goods and services from nonprofit organizations soared during the pandemic. In April 2020, the Edyth Bush Institute conducted a survey to assess the state of the nonprofit community. The survey found 93.73% of the 287 participating nonprofits reported moderate to significant impact on programs, services or general operations. In addition, 194 nonprofit organizations reported an anticipated revenue decrease of $48 million to $54 million between February 2020 and June 2020.

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News

Photo: Harry Castiblanco/Florida National News

“Nonprofits play a vital role in directly improving the lives of individuals. Their contributions to this community and our economy cannot be overlooked. Yet, the struggles with increasing demand for services and maintaining a robust workforce were real,” said Min Sun Kim, executive director of Crummer’s Edyth Bush Institute of Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership. “This program will allow us to address pandemic and post-pandemic challenges as well as to help leaders position their organizations for long-term success.”

For more information and to access the program application, visit empowering-good.org

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Florida County Hurt by Pandemic Offers Tuition to Graduates

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Valencia College Osceola Campus. Photo: Valencia College.

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. (AP) — After two years of a pandemic that battered the workforce of this tourism-dependent county in central Florida, leaders had a gift for departing high school graduates this month: free tuition at either the local community college or the county technical school.

Osceola County commissioners announced earlier this year that they would set aside $12 million in federal COVID-19 funding to pay the tuition of any 2022 high school graduate who wanted to go to Valencia College or the county technical school.

“I didn’t have anybody to pay for my college,” Madilyn Hilder, an Osceola High senior who lives with her grandmother, told the Orlando Sentinel. “Money was always the thing that was going to keep me from going to college.”

Because of the program, Osceola Prosper, Hilder said she will now start her studies in elementary education at Valencia College in August, with plans to later transfer to the University of Central Florida.

The goal of Osceola Prosper is to boost education levels past high school and raise the prospects for better-paying jobs for Osceola residents, said Brandon Arrington, chairman of the county commission.

“I think a lot of people think, ‘If I go to college, I’m going to have $100,000 worth of debt,’” Arrington said.

Osceola County is home to large numbers of tourism workers for Orlando area hotels, restaurants and theme parks. During the early months of pandemic-related business closures, the county had the highest unemployment rate in Florida, reaching 14.4% in 2020.

The county previously had offered $500 scholarships to encourage students to study at Valencia College. The new program will cover the $3,000 a year costs of studying full time at the community college.

Because the available funds are limited, the program is only for 2022 graduates.

Guidance counselors at Osceola County’s high schools said they have been having more conversations with students about continuing their education.

Those conversations usually start with, “Now you have this option, what are your thoughts?” said Kendyl Bass, the college and career specialist at Osceola High. “It has changed a lot of people’s minds.”

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