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Virus has impact on Bay’s budget

ESCANABA — Bay College President Laura Coleman spoke about changes that may be made at Bay due to COVID-19 — including potential budget cuts.

During her president’s report in a virtual meeting of the Bay College Board of Trustees Wednesday evening, Coleman said Bay has begun thinking about how it will bring students and employees back to campus.

“We have been looking at plans on reopening, how are we going to come back to work, how are we going to have students on campus, and all of that,” she said.

As part of this process, the college has determined significantly fewer students will be able to use on-campus housing than in the past.

“We’re going to have to reduce it by half,” Coleman said.

Because of this, Bay could have to reserve a greater number of hotel rooms in the area for students during the fall 2020 semester.

Limiting usage of on-campus housing would result in a decrease in revenue for the college. Bay’s budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year will likely be reduced by about $275,000 because of this.

“This is something that all colleges that have got apartments are having to deal with,” Coleman said.

When Bay’s campus does re-open, Coleman said one concern will be how to keep people with COVID-19 from entering the building.

“We don’t have extra money to be hiring people who are trained nurses to stand there and take tests,” she said.

However, she said the college is still exploring all possibilities related to coronavirus screenings.

Coleman noted Bay is developing an online class for employees that will give them information on steps they can take to protect their own health and the health of others.

“The only thing that we really have is … our own human behavior to protect ourselves,” she said.

Additionally, the question of whether or not K-12 students will return to school on a regular schedule this fall may affect Bay’s operations.

“How is that going to impact our employees who have kids at home, and they don’t have childcare?,” Coleman asked.

The final version of Bay’s reopening plan is expected to be ready in time for the next regular meeting of the board of trustees.

“By next month, we will be able to give you a printed-out plan. It’s getting very, very close,” Coleman said.

Some in-person Bay education is currently ongoing or will begin in the near future. A workforce training program for certified nursing assistants began at the MTEC building earlier in the month. Meanwhile, Bay welding students in Iron Mountain will be able to take classes at the Dickinson-Iron ISD starting Tuesday. Welding students in Escanaba can begin taking classes at the college’s welding lab on Monday, June 1.

“We’re just grateful that we’re able to get students in (and) get them trained,” Coleman said.

These programs, which are in compliance with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders, will be used as a “pilot” for protective measures at Bay.

During her report, Coleman also addressed the financial impact COVID-19 has had on the state level.

“The state is down $3.2 billion between the general fund and the school aid fund, and that is going to have a significant impact on us,” she said.

Based on what she has heard from state legislators and other sources, Coleman said Bay’s funding from the state appropriations fund could be cut by 10 percent in 2020 and 2021.

In other business, the board:

– entered executive session to discuss a legal opinion from the college attorney and hear an update on contract negotiations with the faculty union. No further action on either topic was taken when the meeting returned to open session.

– re-appointed Bruce Orttenburger, Jim Rice, Andrew Brisson and Jon Harry to the Bay College West Campus Advisory Board.

– recognized Board Member Kenneth Groh’s one-year anniversary on the board.

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