McHenry County College tightens vaccine, testing requirements

  • McHenry County College students who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and refuse to be tested weekly will not be allowed to take classes on campus, the college president announced last week.

    McHenry County College students who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and refuse to be tested weekly will not be allowed to take classes on campus, the college president announced last week. Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2018

 
 
Updated 11/21/2021 5:32 PM

McHenry County College students who do not comply with the state mandate to get vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19 cannot attend in-person classes in the spring semester, college President Clinton Gabbard said.

"It's a change. It's one we wish wasn't taking place, but our hope is that the folks who want to be here will step up," Gabbard said.

 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker first announced a state mandate in August, saying all school employees, including higher education staff, and college students either had to get the vaccine or get tested weekly for the highly infectious coronavirus.

MCC used CLEARED4 software to allow employees and students to confidentially upload proof that they got the inoculation, Gabbard said.

The college had a "really great response" from employees, Gabbard added, with 100% of staff now either showing proof of vaccination or agreeing to get tested weekly.

But for students? "It has been slower," he said, noting that about 80% to 85% of students complied. About 300 student did not comply but were not denied entry to campus.

Gabbard said college staff reached out to the students "time and time again" to encourage them to submit their information.

The new semester starts in January. If students don't comply with the new rule, they will not be able to take in-person classes. Students who refuse will be directed to an adviser to look at remote learning options. Gabbard said students will have only a few weeks to meet the new requirements before they are dropped from the in-person class.

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A communication about this policy was sent to students, which prompted a response from about 30 people, Gabbard said.

In-person attendance is preferred, Gabbard said, adding that "it goes against every fiber in our beings" having to restrict access to the campus for those who won't comply.

"We want them physically here if they want to be, but we don't want to be chasing 300 students all spring semester," he added.

Tracking students who didn't comply took time away from other projects, Gabbard said. For instance, last semester staff members were placed at entrances to verify students' vaccination status.

The College of Lake County is taking a similar mandate stance, telling students in October that they had to comply. CLC students who refused have virtual learning and support options available to them.

Gabbard said the college must be prepared for the possibility that enforcing the mandate may hurt enrollment.

"We hope folks will choose an off-site class, an online class, if they have to sub that out," Gabbard said. "We don't want them to lose out on their progress."

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