Why is Frcc Closing its Brighton Center?

On June 30th, FRCC’s Brighton Campus is going to permanently close its doors. The announcement was made in March, with the administration saying that “Our lease on the center expires [this June] and our most recent center director recently resigned- which makes this a natural time to review the future of the center.” After analyzing the situation, the administration estimated that closing the center would save the college about $500,000 annually, and they don’t think that the students lost during the pandemic are going to come back.

“It’s definitely a shame,” said Jeff Tilma, operations coordinator at the Brighton Center. “It provides access to the community. There’s not a lot of opportunities here in Brighton for people to take classes. Obviously, we have the remote element, so they can be met that way.” However, he said, “With our enrollment as low as it was, I wasn’t shocked.”

Anna Fajardo, Coordinator for Testing and Welcome center at the Brighton Center, felt differently.  “We were shocked. We were very, very shocked,” Fajardo said. “[We had thought] ‘well it’s COVID, we’ll have some leeway,’ but I guess not.” As for whether or not the decision was made too soon, Fajardo said, “I don’t know if they jumped the gun on [the closure], but we weren’t showing the numbers we needed to.” 

Asked about the $500,000 the college would save by closing the campus, she asked an important question: “Is it worth it to this community?”

To put in perspective how much $500,000 is, Tricia Johnson, Vice President at FRCC’s Westminster Campus, put it in terms of a pay raise. “$500,000 a year would enable us to do about a 1% pay increase to every employee across the college,” Johnson said, “and these are really challenging times for our employees as the cost of living in our service area has gone up dramatically in the last couple of years, so that’s why we liken it to what it enables us to do with a pay increase so we can try to keep our good employees here at the college.” 

As for whether or not the administration was too early on the decision to close the center, Dr. Johnson doesn’t believe so, “In terms of waiting it out, I think it’s important to say that that’s what we’ve been trying to do for the last two years. In the first year [2020-2021], we recognized that nothing was normal that year. We were regularly having to quarantine, and [ask] ‘could we do classes in person?’ So we said, ‘ok we know that that year is not something we can base a decision solely on’ and so we thought: ‘ok, 2021-2022, we’ll be back in person.” … “We waited an entire additional year to see: ‘are we able to bring that enrollment back up?’, and in the first year, 2020-2021, we were at 41 FTE, so we knew ‘ok that’s not a great number’, but we knew it was pandemic impacted. This year, when we could bring all of our classes back in person, we only have 33 FTE.”

That may only be a decline of eight students, but because the number was so low, to begin with, that actually represents a drop of over 20 percent. Prior to the pandemic, the center had 90 FTE students enrolled, meaning that there was nearly a 60 percent decrease over just two years. It also demonstrates to the administration that the Brighton Center was not only not recovering, but it was actually continuing to decline.

That is compared to the rest of FRCC, which did not see a significant drop in enrollment across the same period – or at least, not beyond the drop that had already been taking place over the last ten years. That’s another important consideration: FRCC is not in the same position today as it was in 2009 when the Brighton Center opened. “When you look at the numbers for [all of] our campuses, we’ve been seeing some pretty steep declines [in enrollment] over the last ten years as a college,” Johnson said. “We’re averaging about a 6.5% drop [in enrollment per semester] across all our campuses.” 

With that in mind, it may not be financially responsible for FRCC to spend money to maintain a campus with such low enrollment. Although it’s important to note that all other FRCC campuses are able to cover their costs, Johnson stressed that there are no considerations whatsoever about closing any other locations.

So it’s worth asking if the Brighton Center can’t financially sustain itself, and the rest of FRCC isn’t in a position to spare the cash to maintain the center, would it be possible to use federal stimulus money to sustain Brighton Center? After all, much of the decline is COVID-related, isn’t it? The short answer: No. “There are really specific rules on what we’re allowed to do with each of the [stimulus packages],” Johnson said. “We had to be able to 100 percent show that they were used in response to COVID”…“when I think about where the savings are, the savings are in the rent that we pay for that building – it’s very hard to say that the rent was impacted by COVID – it’s in the operations of it, the utilities, and of course the employees that are at the center. It wasn’t really a case that I could make that we could use [stimulus money] because [it’s not] directly related to COVID.”

It also doesn’t help that enrollment was declining even before COVID, “Our best year [at Brighton], we were at about 110 full-time students,” Johnson said. “Even before the pandemic impacted our enrollment, our FTE students had dropped down to 90, almost a 20 percent drop.”

Why, though, did the Brighton Center have such low enrollment? Everyone seems to have their ideas. Fajardo cited COVID, power transitions, and low levels of awareness and outreach. “I think, with COVID, we lost a lot of students,”  she said. “There also wasn’t a lot of knowledge that we were even here. I live in the Brighton area, and every time I talk to someone they’re like: ‘Oh! There’s a campus in Brighton?’ But we’ve been at this building since 2009, and at the old judicial building since 1998…, and so I think our outreach was not as we had it before, and then [the director] quit, and then we got John [the most recent director], and then COVID hit…so I think it was a lot of things.”

Dr. Johnson suspected it might have something to do with the location, “That’s what we’ve been grappling with for years, is ‘why hasn’t it boomed?’ When you look at where the growth is within Brighton, that’s not where the [campus] is, so I do think that’s part of it.” However, she also expressed uncertainty about the true cause. “I wish I knew the answer,” Johnson said. “I wish I knew it was just because of outreach – because I know that the staff there, especially Cynthia Garcia and Anna Fajardo, they’ve been doing good outreach work, and I look at the College Now team, they connect really well will 27J, and the schools. So I think that, while they’re absolutely was transition in terms of the director at the Brighton Center, the folks who were right at the front working with students were continuing to do a lot of that outreach, so I’m not exactly sure what the challenge was there.”

As for whether or not FRCC will leave the Brighton area altogether, Dr. Johnson says they will not. “One of the things we are looking at … is the phlebotomy program,” she said. “It’s a one-semester program where students come in, prepare, and then get out there and go to work after that amount of time,”…“and we’ve had full classes [for that program], which is great! And not having the center doesn’t mean we can’t have that anymore. So we are actually in the midst of looking at what other partners within the community we might be able to rent a room [from] to offer that training, to keep phlebotomy training within the Brighton community. So I do envision us continuing to be in the community – it would just look different. So we’re looking at how we can do more partnerships like that to keep the services in the community.”

While no plans to re-open another center in Brighton exist today, FRCC has come back from far worse declines in enrollment before. So maybe one day, another campus will be opened in Brighton, but until then, the community will have to make do with FRCC’s other campuses, and the programs it runs in partnership with other organizations in the area.

Welcome to our new columnist

Darby Holman is a staff writer for the Front Page, who is double majoring in communications and English. During her time at FRCC, she discovered her love for creative writing and one day hopes to publish a fiction novel. Though she is new to the newspaper writing game she is excited about the new experience and to be able to share the stories surrounding the FRCC community. When she’s not in school she can be found adventuring to strange destinations like the gator farm in southern Colorado, listening to classic rock music, or spending time reading and snuggling with her adorable little pup named Shadow. 

Meet your New Columnist

Seth Ciancio is a staff writer for the Front Page, studying computer science with the aim of transferring to CU Boulder. He wrote for his student newspaper in high school and opted to do the same at FRCC. Outside of school, you might find Seth working on his project car, a 1979 Mustang, or digging through obscure internet archives to find decades-old declassified government documents, or maybe just playing video games.

Greetings from your new Editor in Chief

My story starts in Marysville California where I was raised until my graduation. In a quick decision that only took 2 weeks. I was wicked off to live with my grandparents in Durango Colorado. It was in Durango that I did what every lost 20 year old does… I screwed around. Being a homeschooled child of a very religious family, I went out and enjoyed life, fell in and out of love, got into trouble, had some adventures.

This was when I found what was to become my calling in life, Video production. I found out that the local cable access television station (DCAT), was providing basic production skills to the public for a small membership fee. While at DCAT I took simple classes that outlined the bare-bones essentials of filmmaking. It started with a few live concerts, then moved on to weddings and then shorts. I was hooked. I started getting better, soon the station started to become my clubhouse. The actually paid workers started to involve me in station projects which I willingly volunteered for like the addict I was becoming. However, this was short-lived due to me being a late bloomer in life and still having some stuff to work out. Like a lot of dreams it got buried and shuffled around but I never quite forgot the thrill and fulfillment of creating.

In 2012 I decided to jump on an opportunity to move to the Denver area for a fresh start. With excitement, I jumped at what Denver has to offer, with this new burst of energy I revisited old passions, one of which was video production. I started slow and had a few missteps and false starts, however, my persistence led to my first solo project in the form of a music video, this then led to me earning a position on the Denver Comic Con Media team which I am currently a veteran cameraman of 7 years for. With a growing portfolio. This however has always taken a backseat to some kitchen job that I’m good at but ultimately hate. I have repeated patterns for far too long and wish to have a destiny that I know that I can achieve. So at forty years old, I have chosen to act out. Not by getting a motorcycle, or trying to be younger than I actually am. But To finally realize my dream… To uncover that masked vigilante Spider-Man!!!

All About FRCC’s Testing/Vaccine Mandate

By Seth Ciancio

This Friday, January 7th, marks the deadline for all FRCC students and staff to fill out the Vaccine Testing Form, so it’s worth answering some questions about the new policy. Initially, the Colorado Community College system did not mandate the vaccine for the 2021-2022 school year, because they wanted to avoid creating “barriers to educational pursuits, and serve all learners”, but on October 7th of 2021 the Chancellor of the Colorado Community College system, Joe Garcia, announced that, “Employees and students who work on campus, attend in-person classes, access support services, or participate in other activities at our colleges or system office will have the choice to provide results from regular COVID-19 testing or, alternatively, provide evidence that they are fully vaccinated.” He cited a desire to provide for the health and safety of FRCC students and staff as a top priority, and that the best way to do that while maintaining in-person classes was to mandate testing or vaccination. So what’s actually being mandated? There are three options for FRCC students. You can either provide proof of full vaccination, commit to getting tested weekly, or stay off-campus and take only remote/online courses. You must fill out the Vaccine/Testing Form by Friday, and commit to one of those three options, or you will be dropped from all classes. This applies to all students, even those only taking remote classes, and there is no medical or religious exemption available. 

While FRCC is not committing to providing free testing, there is already free community testing in all communities which FRCC serves, and FRCC hopes to have free testing available at all campuses at some point. If you commit to getting tested but fail to do so, you will not be allowed to attend in-person classes at any FRCC campus until you can provide a negative test result. If you test positive, you must complete the COVID questionnaire, and the Dean of Student Affairs office will guide you through what to do next. Your first testing results must be submitted by January 13, 2022, and your tests must not be more than 72 hours old at the time of uploading. At-home tests will not be accepted, as there is no way to verify the date when they were taken. Instructors are not expected to make accommodations for students who miss class as a result of a failure to adhere to their testing agreement. Students who have already had COVID are exempt from the testing requirement for 90 days from their first positive test. This is based on CDC guidance and may change if the CDC guidance is updated.

For those who are providing proof of vaccination, there are still a few things you might want to know. Like, what vaccines are accepted? Any vaccine officially approved for use by the WHO will be accepted by FRCC. For now, there are ten: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Covishield, and Covovax, are all approved for use by the WHO and are accepted by FRCC. For the Pfizer & Moderna vaccines which require two shots, you need to have both shots to stay enrolled in your classes, and you need to wait at least two weeks after your second shot to attend class. If you think FRCC might already have your vaccination data, check your email inbox. If you got an email asking for you to fill out the form, then they don’t have your information, and you need to fill it out. For now, there is no requirement to get the booster shot, although FRCC does recommend it. If you have a medical or religious exemption to vaccination, then you will either have to get tested weekly or agree to take only online/remote courses.

If you’re planning on taking remote or online courses, you still need to fill out the form. On the form, you will be asked what your registration status is for the spring semester. If you plan on taking only online or remote classes, select that option. This will keep you enrolled in your classes, and you will not be required to provide proof of vaccination or test weekly. If you don’t fill out the form by Friday, you will be dropped from all classes, even online ones.

There is a lot of controversy around vaccine or testing mandates, and if you have a complaint, you can take it up with the Dean of Student Affairs at whatever campus you attend. Who knows, maybe you’ll convince them to change the requirement. But for now, if you’re attending any school within the Colorado Community College System, there are only three options: testing, vaccination, or online classes. Regardless of which one you pick, you must fill out the Vaccine/Testing form by January 7th, or you’ll be dropped from all your classes. Hopefully, the policy will help to keep students and staff at FRCC safe by reducing the spread of COVID-19.

Farewell to the Front Page from the Managing Editor

I feel very fortunate to have worked for The FRCC Front Page through the last year and a half. My time at Front Range has been full of surprises (I mean, there is the whole pandemic thing that started shortly before I began taking classes in summer of 2020…), some more fun than others. This work study position, first as staff writer then as managing editor, has been one of the fun surprises.

Thank you to Mindy, Jonathan, and my fellow student workers who made this job a fun one. I would recommend anyone interested in writing work for the student newspaper. It’s a great way to develop solid writing skills and form connections with like-minded people.

Good luck to everyone and have a great end of the semester/winter break.

Rhiana

The Impact of COVID-19 on FRCC Students

Written by Ilya Kogan

Since the arrival of COVID-19, many people were forced to shift their daily routines into a more remote friendly setting. Not only has COVID-19 impacted businesses, but it has also impacted the local community, including the students of FRCC Westminster. With the mandatory shutdowns, educational institutions scrambled to find an optimal way to continue to educate their students. These institutions turned to Zoom and Discord to connect students to professors. With these changes come a new set of benefits and drawbacks. 

For most students, one of the benefits of remote education was that it was flexible with their schedules. Many students have part time jobs which can sometimes make the commute difficult. These recent changes have helped students save a lot of time. The biggest drawback noticed was the lack of social interaction amongst students. Due to these remote classes, it made it hard for students to build relationships with each other making a lot of them feel isolated. 

“I like remote classes, but it was hard for me to make friends. I could see the benefits of it, but I prefer going to class in person,” stated one FRCC student. “It’s just easier to network that way and make friends with other people. I also felt like the classes were a bit harder. The lack of office hours made it feel like I had to do a lot of self-learning to understand the topics.”

“With remote classes you could get a lot more work done, but I can also see how a lot of students miss out on the social aspect of going to college,” stated another FRCC student.

This last year and a half have been very difficult for many people, with COVID-19 forcing schools to shift to remote learning and the many changes that have taken place. These college students have been faced with never-before-seen challenges. While there are benefits to remote learning, many students are forced to face the drawbacks as well. Although schools are finally beginning to open their doors for in person classes, it is difficult to imagine remote classes becoming obsolete. With the direction the future of education is heading in, it will most likely consist of a combination of both.

A review of Desire to Learn’s new app

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Photo by Andy Tucker

FRCC students who are tired of checking D2L for their grades on their phone’s web browser have a good alternative. D2L now offers an app called Pulse, that students can download and start using on both iPhone and Android. 

The app is straightforward to use, with a simple user interface. After downloading and logging in, you will see a list of your courses. Clicking a course will display the different weeks, and within each week, your course content for that week displays. There isn’t nearly as much navigation to get to “course content” using the app as there is using a web browser on phone or computer.

Students can also use the calendar view by clicking on “Upcoming” on the bottom of the screen. This view will have a week at a time with a graph feature, indicating which days have assignments due and what those assignments are. I found this feature particularly useful for the straightforward display and integration of all courses, instead of just one course. 

Clicking on the “Notifications” tab will let students know when their grades have updated. I found this feature to lack the information that logging into D2L on a web browser provides. On the web browser, it’s much easier to see individual assignment grades. On the Pulse app, there are fewer notifications and clicking on a grade update will redirect to the website within an app, which can be frustrating to interact with.

Overall, Pulse is useful for a snapshot of your weekly work using the “Upcoming” feature and a quick reminder of your weekly work. The app isn’t as useful for doing any assignments, but the web browser on the phone isn’t either. Students still need a laptop to successfully use D2L, but the app is a good complement.

What to do in Westminster and Denver during a COVID winter

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Photo by Joe Fisk

As we enter into the second year of the pandemic with a few months of winter left, we are all looking for activities to get us safely out of the house. Here are a few ideas that will keep us and others safe while also avoiding some stir craziness. 

  1. You can check out the Denver Botanic Gardens on a nicer day. Everyone wears masks throughout the Gardens, and it can be a nice place to walk around.
  2. We’ve been having an unseasonably mild winter, so if you want to do an outside but lower cost activity, you and some friends can have a picnic at a park. Wash Park in Denver or Westminster Center Park are both great options to have a picnic on a 50-degree or warmer day.
  3. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can try snowshoeing or hiking 20 minutes outside of Westminster or Denver. There are a lot of trail options for this, available at All Trails.
  4. If you want to support local businesses, you can find a local coffee shop, grab coffee and pastries to go, and sit outside while you enjoy your treats. Navah Coffee House  or Zoe’s Coffee Shop  in Westminster both have great reviews. Coffee For The People in Denver is a nonprofit, and proceeds go to their owner Pangaea World Foundation, which works to help accelerate the rescue of people, animals, and natural ecosystems around the world.
  5. You can head to the 16th Street Mall or Broadway in Denver and walk around window shopping. Westminster also has a small downtown area worth checking out. If you like anything you see, it’s probably available, as long as you wear a mask!

Even though a COVID-19 winter can be challenging at times, there are safe ways to get out of the house and support some local businesses while we wait for widespread vaccination.

A Note from the Editor

Written by Joe Fisk

Photo by Mindy Kinnaman

With the start of the 2021 spring semester, The Front Page student newspaper will continue to bring readers relevant news to Front Range Community College. Classes at FRCC will continue to be taught over real time remote and online learning for the semester in order to adhere to COVID-19 protocol. The Front Page is excited to announce the return of the Wolfcast podcast, bringing listeners conversation, updates, news and events happening on campus. On February 4, readers will have an opportunity to meet the staff as well as sign up for The Front Page newsletter at the FRCC Westminster club engagement fair.