Central Arizona College

Central Arizona College’s Signal Peak Campus will be open to the public again on May 3.

SIGNAL PEAK — The Central Arizona College Governing Board announced Tuesday a plan for reopening campuses to the public in May.

“We believe we are at a point where we can do so safely,” said college President Jackie Elliott. She thanked the school’s COVID-19 response team for helping to facilitate the decision.

Employees will be returning to the CAC campuses starting April 5 in a staggered format, and the college will be reopening to the public on May 3. Elliott said spring courses would continue in a virtual format until that time.

The Signal Peak Campus is currently being used for both COVID-19 vaccinations and testing.

During the March board meeting, Talent Development Vice President Brandi Bain suggested that the pandemic had actually helped strengthen communications between students, staff and faculty at CAC, something that the college had wanted to work on.

“As it relates to communication, as a college we have struggled,” Bain said. “Improving employee satisfaction is always a top priority. During COVID this was a very big focus. I saw more communication and people coming together than we had in many years.”

Bain cited Elliott’s weekly online check-ins as making a big difference. In addition to efforts during the pandemic to praise and recognize various employees, the school also offered cash-outs for employees struggling with COVID-19, allowing them to dip into vacation or sick time.

Overall, Bain said that employee satisfaction and retention has been on an upward trend over the past three years. Bain also mentioned that the staff’s recent diversity trainings were well received.

Chief Financial Officer Chris Wodka notified the board that for the third straight year, tuition would stay the same. Wodka also said that the school would save $7.1 million through refunding bonds sold over the past year.

Earlier in March, CAC announced a partnership with Arizona State University with the MyPath2ASU program to help facilitate students transferring. Despite legislation that passed the Arizona House that would allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees, Elliott said the school would continue to prioritize its 90-30 relationships with other local institutions. That program allows CAC students to complete three-fourths of a bachelor’s degree.

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Aaron Dorman is a reporter covering Coolidge and the surrounding area. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.