I hope you and yours are doing well. It has been just over a month since MC moved to remote teaching, learning, and operations. Our public safety team and landscaping crews continue to work to keep the campus safe and neat while we are away from the campus. Be assured, the College continues to monitor and comply with all the state and local public health directives to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and our neighbors.
The end of the spring 2020 semester is a month away and we are busy planning virtual versions of our graduation and awards ceremonies to honor the extraordinary accomplishments of our students, faculty, and staff. We reallocated the funds from these events to provide more than $500,000 in emergency aid to students to help with technology, food, and rent. The College should receive federal CARES Act funds soon, which will provide over $5 million in emergency aid to students.
We are also busy planning for both online and face-to-face summer sessions, though such plans are very much dependent on when it will be appropriate to reopen MC campuses.
Many Montgomery College alumni are helping our community battle the COVID-19 pandemic on the front lines. Dawn Harris, MC alumna and nurse at Holy Cross Hospital, works as an assistant nurse manager at Holy Cross Hospital. Ms. Harris says she “wouldn’t want to be anywhere else” at this time because she “chose this field to be on the front lines and to make a difference, especially during times like this current national crisis.” Ms. Harris demonstrates why nursing has a reputation for courage and compassion. Katrin Roux-Bernstein, MC alumna and ER nurse at Adventist HealthCare White Oak Medical Center has been working 12-hour shifts with limited access to personal protective equipment. In response, she has collected homemade masks donated by friends to distribute to colleagues. As a skilled healthcare worker, she was already helping our community thrive in pre-coronavirus days. Her resourcefulness and courage on the frontline of this crisis epitomize how MC alumni enrich the life of our community.
Speaking of the need for nurses, doctors, radiological technologists, and research scientists, work continues to prepare for the construction of the Catherine and Isiah Leggett Math and Science Building. Barton Malow is continuing to work on site following local, state, and federal public health safety directives. They are working with every precaution to ensure that their workers and the neighborhood we share stays safe during these times. Their COVID-19 Operations Guidelines can be found on our project website. We will update the website as the guidelines are modified.
As an update on the project status, work on the windows on Science South recently began while the majority of interior materials related to asbestos have been removed and properly abated. We have, as part of the continued efforts to carefully prepare for demolition of these buildings, found some conditions underneath the gym floor in Falcon Hall that require continued abatement efforts. The flooring in the main gym is made of hardwood. However, during the abatement activities, our abatement subcontractor discovered another layer of synthetic rubber-like flooring below this hardwood layer. Testing of this synthetic floor showed the presence of mercury, which was used as a catalyst for polyurethane flooring in the 1960s and 1970s. The concentration of mercury was enough to require continued abatement activities including appropriate disposal methods.
An abatement plan has been prepared for the removal process of these materials and the same subcontractor who is nearly finished abating asbestos from the site will handle the removal of the floor material. Similar to the asbestos abatement, these activities will include a “negative pressure containment” (i.e. plastic will cover walls and floor) to create a sealed enclosure around the work area. Air from the enclosure will be exhausted through HEPA filters with a charcoal layer in a three-stage decontamination chamber (i.e. workers will clean their tools and outer protective clothing, then wash off any contaminants before leaving the enclosure). Mist sprayers will be used to keep particulates inside the enclosure. The material will be encapsulated to ensure secure safe disposal. These protective measures will ensure the safety and well-being of the campus, the workers, and our neighbors.
Barton Malow and the College are also preparing a noise mitigation plan for the Leggett Building project. Barton Malow will submit the plan to Montgomery County in the near future for their review. Those of you who live close to the project will be notified so that you may comment on the plan. Once it is approved by the County, it will be posted to the project website.
We are planning a virtual project update forum in the near future, hopefully later in May. Please keep an eye out for your invitation and we hope you will join us online then. Please stay safe and know that your community college is doing all it can to continue to empower its students to change their lives, to stay safe, and engage with its community.
Dr. Brad Stewart
Vice President & Provost
Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus