Pellissippi State announces phased plan for returning to campus

Pellissippi State sign at entrance to Hardin Valley Campus
Pellissippi State will allow a small number of employees and students to return to the college’s Hardin Valley (shown here) and Strawberry Plains campuses starting Monday, May 4.

Pellissippi State Community College announced Friday a multi-stage plan for a slow, limited return to campus following the coronavirus pandemic that closed the college to all but essential personnel this spring. 

While one of Pellissippi State’s campuses is located in Blount County, Pellissippi State has adopted the guidance for Knox County as released by the Knox County Health Department for all five Pellissippi State campuses. The college’s plan also incorporates additional guidance from the Tennessee Board of Regents, the American College Health Association and the Centers for Disease Control. 

“Our first priority is the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. As we return to campus, we will do so in a manner that follows the best guidance of local, state and federal authorities. Within that frame, we will work to create the kind of engaged academic and student experience members of our community have come to expect.  

Pellissippi State’s first stage starts Monday, May 4, but only allows limited access to two campuses: Hardin Valley and Strawberry Plains. 

Those campuses will be open to those classes necessary for students to finish coursework that must be done on campus – skills assessment and project completion – during finals week. These labs in career programs such as Welding TechnologyEngineering and Nursing will not be operating at full capacity, in keeping with social distancing guidelines of leaving at least 6 feet of space between individuals and 10 or fewer people in one room. For that reason, an entire class may not be able to work or test at the same time. 

Outside of Strawberry Plains Campus
Strawberry Plains Campus is one of two Pellissippi State campuses that will reopen Monday, May 4, to students who need finish coursework that must be done on campus – skills assessment and project completion – during finals week.

Stage 1 also allows employees who have been working remotely to access their officesby appointment only, to retrieve items they need. 

While on campus, everyone must wear a mask at all times and follow social distancing guidelines. Anyone who has been exhibiting any of the symptoms of Covid-19 as outlined by the CDC should not report to campus. All employees are asked to take their temperatures before reporting to campus, and students who report for labs will be asked three screening questions provided by the Knox County Health Department before they are allowed to enter campus buildings: 

  1. Have you been told to quarantine/isolate by a medical provider or the health department? 
  2. Have you had face-to-face contact for 10 or more minutes with someone who has Covid-19? 
  3. Are you feeling ill and/or experiencing any of the symptoms of Covid-19? 

Stage 2 is scheduled to start May 29 and opens Blount County and Magnolia Avenue campuses to essential employees. The college’s Division Street Campus will remain closed throughout summer, as in previous summers. 

Future stages will be announced at a later date. 

Pellissippi State previously announced that all summer courses will move online, with limited in-person instruction in the second summer term for lab sections.  

For more information about Pellissippi State’s coronavirus response, including an archive of the college’s daily updates to faculty, staff and students, visit www.pstcc.edu/coronavirus. 

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FirstBank partners with Pellissippi State to supplement food pantry during coronavirus, pledges $50,000 to build new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science and $10,000 to celebrate alumni

Officer places grocery bags in open hatch of vehicle
Corporal Richard Brintnall of the Pellissippi State Campus Police loads groceries from the Pellissippi Pantry into a recipient’s car earlier this month.

Employees and friends of FirstBank in Knoxville recently raised $3,000 to help Pellissippi State Community College supplement the food in its Pellissippi Pantry during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Pellissippi Pantry provides access to healthy foods for members of the Pellissippi State family who may be experiencing food insecurity. Every other week, participants may pick up orders that include prepackaged food and fresh organically grown produce from the Hardin Valley Campus Garden. 

With the coronavirus pandemic causing shortages at local grocery stores, FirstBank employees stepped up and helped Pellissippi State supplement the food the college had on hand to distribute to more than 75 Pellissippi Pantry recipients the first week of April. 

“The work of Pellissippi State’s food pantry is vitally important to supporting the student community, and we’re happy to see our FirstBank family rally around a cause that helps people build a better future,” said FirstBank Knoxville Market President Nathan Hunter. 

Pellissippi State set up distribution tents on three of its campuses – Blount County, Hardin Valley and Magnolia Avenue – and announced times during which Pellissippi Pantry recipients could pick up their food. Volunteers from the college placed the boxes and bags of food in each recipient’s vehicle for a contact-less delivery. 

This was just the latest way FirstBank, the third largest bank headquartered in Tennessee, has partnered with Pellissippi State in 2020. 

In MarchHunter presented Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. with a $60,000 donation — $50,000 to help build the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus and $10,000 to sponsor Pellissippi State’s annual Alumni and Friends Luncheon, which celebrates accomplishments of past Pellissippi State graduates. 

“We’re happy to be partnering with Pellissippi State to support the great work this school is doing in our community,” Hunter said. “As a longtime resident of East Tennessee, I know how important Pellissippi State is to residents of this area, and we’re proud to contribute to their alumni and students’ success.” 

FirstBank’s $50,000 gift to the Pellissippi State Foundation will help the college complete its new 82,000-square-foot Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the Hardin Valley Campus, which is now under construction and expected to open for classes in fall 2021.  

The new building will help Pellissippi State, the largest community college in Tennessee, meet demands for classrooms and lab spaces that have increased due to Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, last-dollar scholarships that provide two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in Tennessee. 

FirstBank employees present ceremonial check to Pellissippi State
FirstBank presents Pellissippi State with a donation to help build the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science and to sponsor the annual Annual Alumni and Friends. From left are Robert Baird and Nathan Hunter of FirstBank, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Chris Parrott of FirstBank, Pellissippi State Foundation Executive Director Aneisa Rolen and Rusty Harmon of FirstBank.

The Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science will include 18 classrooms, six computer labs and nine science labs, as well as a teacher education center for the college’s Early Childhood Development and Teacher Education programs. An Adjunct Faculty Suite in the building will be named in honor of FirstBank’s generous contribution. 

“Each contribution we receive for the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science allows us to offer greater access to required labs in the sciences,” Wise said. “This new building will also include much needed classroom space for mathematics and teacher education as well as spaces for faculty and student collaboration. We appreciate our partners at FirstBank seeing the value of what we’ve proposed here and contributing to that vision.” 

FirstBank also will contribute $10,000 to Pellissippi State’s annual Alumni and Friends Lunch, which was scheduled for April 8 at the Foundry on the Fair Site but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The winners of the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Peggy Wilson Alumni Volunteer Award, both selected by members of the Alumni Steering Committee, will be honored at the lunch. 

Those award winners have not been announced. 

For more information on Pellissippi State, visit  www.pstcc.eduor call 865-694-6400. 

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About FirstBank 

Nashville-based FirstBank, a wholly owned subsidiary of FB Financial Corporation (NYSE: FBK), is the third largest Tennessee-headquartered bank, with 73 full-service bank branches across Tennessee, Kentucky, North Alabama and North Georgia, and a national mortgage business with offices across the Southeast. The bank serves five of the major metropolitan markets in Tennessee and, with approximately $6.2 billion in total assets, has the resources to provide a comprehensive variety of financial services and products. 

For More Information 

Jeanie Rittenberry or Roger Shirley 

FirstBank MP&F Strategic Communications 

jrittenberry@firstbankonline.com 

rshirley@mpf.com 

(615) 313-8328 

(615) 259-4000 

Pellissippi State nursing student sews more than 700 masks for strangers

Bridget Frazier at sewing machine
Pellissippi State nursing student Bridget Frazier of Knoxville sews surgical masks at her home. She has made more than 700 masks since March 20.

Bridget Frazier is a lot of things: wife to a disabled veteran, mother to 6-year-old twins, a nursing student at Pellissippi State Community College and an emergency room technician at Parkwest Medical Center. 

But since March 20, she’s also found the time to sew more than 700 surgical masks – and ship them all over the United States to people in need. 

“I noticed the shortage across the nation, and when I went in to work over spring break, we were already having to start limiting to one mask per day,” Frazier explained. “I came home, and that was the same day the CDC told us to go ahead and put a bandana around your face. I thought, ‘That is not going to work!’” 

Frazier, who is 30 years old and has been sewing since she was 12, started researching what kinds of fabrics work best in lieu of the N95 surgical masks that are in such short supply during this coronavirus pandemic. Then she took her own mask from her Pellissippi State nursing pack and traced it. 

“It took three attempts,” Frazier remembered, laughing. “The first two were pretty terrible. They probably wouldn’t have fit on a Barbie doll.” 

The third time was a charm, however, and Frazier got right to work sewing masks. With a father with multiple sclerosis, a mother with rheumatoid arthritis and a daughter with asthma, it was important to Frazier to protect her family as well as her friends who are medical professionals. 

“When I shared some photos on social media, it blew up,” Frazier recalled. “I was getting requests from all over: doctors’ offices, hospices. I didn’t know the demand was going to be so crazy. I wasn’t expecting people to respond the way they did.” 

Bridget Frazier at her home
Pellissippi State nursing student Bridget Frazier, pictured at home in Knoxville, finds time to sew masks even while finishing her degree, parenting 6-year-old twins, and working as an emergency room technician.

Local orders can be picked up from a basket on Frazier’s porch – she’s serious about social distancing! — but she also has mailed masks to Hawaii, Alaska, Alabama, Georgia, New York, Washington, D.C. and counting. On Friday alone, she sent 60 to Texas, 20 to Virginia and 12 to a critical care unit in Colorado. 

Frazier doesn’t charge a thing, not even shipping, but accepts donations to help her continue buying fabric and elastic bands – an activity she does twice a week, armed with a mask, gloves, Lysol and hand sanitizer. 

“I go to the store and the post office twice a week and limit the time period I’m out,” Frazier stressed, noting she otherwise is sheltering in place with her family. “I bought almost $100 worth of fabric (in one trip) so that I won’t have to go back out for a while because no one was observing social distancing. I was like Pac-Man. I’d see them coming down an aisle, and I’d turn and go the other way. I was like, ‘Stay 6 feet back!’” 

Frazier estimates she’s spent several hundred dollars on the project so far between fabric, elastic and shipping costs, but she’s not going to stop making masks. 

“With such a mask shortage right now, and so many people having lost their jobs, I don’t want people to go without because they can’t afford them or they can’t find them,” Frazier said. “I ask people if they want to make a donation, but if they don’t, that’s totally fine. You’re definitely going to get your masks!” 

Surgical masks sewn by Bridget Frazier
Bridget Frazier traced the mask from her Pellissippi State nursing pack when she started sewing masks over her spring break.

From March 20 until March 28, Frazier was able to crank out 100-120 masks per day. Now that Pellissippi State classes have resumed online – Frazier is on track to graduate in May and has accepted an RN position at Parkwest, pending the outcome of her state boards – she’s sewing 20-40 masks per day, but she also has some help. 

“So many people have reached out to me on social media who have felt compelled to go buy a sewing machine and start sewing masks,” Frazier noted. “I have eight to 10 people who are learning righnow. I made them a video of how to make masks, which is not an easy thing to do. The design I made is complicated, and these are beginner sewers. I’m so proud of them!” 

She shrugs off any accolades pointed her way, however. 

“I don’t view myself as an inspiration,” Frazier says simply. “I saw a need, and I figured out a way to fill that need.” 

To reach out to Frazier, you can find her on Facebook or email her at blfrazier@pstcc.edu.

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Sidebar: Thoughts from a future nurse

Pellissippi State Community College nursing student Bridget Frazier shares here, in her own words, what she’s seeing in Knoxville: 

“People aren’t understanding how serious this is. Across the world, 20-40 year olds are dying because they can’t breathe and we don’t have enough ventilators. It is very frustrating because everybody keeps posting how appreciative they are of nurses, but they are not doing what we ask them to do. For the love of God, stay home! Practice social isolation. Wear a mask when you have to go out. Wash your hands. Cover your mouth when you cough. It is going to affect someone you know within the next several weeks, and when that time comes, I hope that people are part of the solution and not part of the problem.” 

Pellissippi State manufactures critical personal protective equipment amid coronavirus pandemic

3D printers at MegaLab
3D printers at Pellissippi State’s MegaLab on its Strawberry Plains Campus are working around the clock to manufacture personal protective equipment for health care professionals.

Pellissippi State Community College is one of several Tennessee colleges using 3D printers to manufacture personal protective equipment that will help health care professionals caring for coronavirus patients. 

The project, announced Monday, March 23, by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, has been underway since Saturday, March 21. By Monday afternoon, the colleges had cranked out more than 1,500 pieces of equipment including 838 headbands like the ones Pellissippi State is producing to attach to face shields. 

Health care professionals wear plastic face shields over their masks as further protection from infectious diseases while working with patients. 

Headbands made by 3D printers
Pellissippi State shipped 239 headbands, shown here, to Austin Peay State University on Tuesday, where they will be attached to transparent plastic face shields that health care professionals wear over their face masks.

“We are pleased to be a part of supporting efforts to combat this virus in our community and across the state,” said Teri Brahams, executive director for economic and workforce development for Pellissippi State. “Our ability to assist in this project is evidence of our efforts to always be on the cutting edge of technology taught in our classrooms and through Business and Community Services. This also is a perfect utilization of campus resources that would otherwise lie dormant during this period.” 

While Pellissippi State has closed its five campuses in Knox and Blount counties amid Knox County’s Safer at Home Order issued Monday, essential personnel continue to report to the MegaLab at Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus to keep the 3D printers working around the clock. The MegaLab, its entrance and its nearby restrooms are on a daily cleaning schedule to ensure the space remains disinfected while essential personnel are working there. 

Andy Polnicki and Todd Evans wearing headbands
MegaLab Director Andy Polnicki, left, and Workforce Solutions Director Todd Evans, right, test the headbands being manufactured on 3D printers on the Strawberry Plains Campus. These headbands will be attached to plastic face shields to protect health care workers tending to patients with infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Pellissippi State MegaLab Director Andy Polnicki has been hard at work preparing the first shipment of 239 headbands to send to Austin Peay State University, the college that developed the prototype. Austin Peay employees will attach the headbands to transparent plastic face shields for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, which will distribute them to health care facilities and professionals who are facing shortages of equipment. 

This is one of the projects the governor is spearheading to find new and innovative ways to serve Tennesseans during the COVID-19 crisis. To keep up with the latest news about coronavirus response at Pellissippi State, visit our website at www.pstcc.edu/coronavirus. 

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Pellissippi State announces first positive case of COVID-19

A student at Pellissippi State Community College has self-reported a positive test for COVID-19 today. The student has not been on campus for the past two weeks and has been under self-quarantine throughout that time. All relevant parties have been notified, and all facilities have been cleaned and disinfected. 

Pellissippi State officials announced yesterday that the college is moving all of its classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester. Updates are being posted daily to the college’s website and social media accounts. 

Pellissippi State moves online for rest of semester, postpones commencement

Pellissippi State sign at entrance to Hardin Valley Campus
Pellissippi State is moving its classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester.

President L. Anthony Wise Jr. announced Thursday that it is in the best interest of Pellissippi State Community College faculty, staff and students to move classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester, with very few exceptions. 

This serious decision was made after the White House and the Centers for Disease Control revised their guidance that social gatherings should be limited to 10 or fewer people, a challenge for any institution. 

To that end, all college events through May 11 have been canceled, effective immediately. Spring commencement and the Nursing pinning ceremony, originally planned for May 10, will be postponed until a later date, but will be held in person when it is safe to do so. 

We know this is not the semester you imagined. It is not the semester we imagined. But we will get through this together,” Wise said in an email to faculty, staff and students. “We have a dedicated group of employees working every day to ensure we cover all our bases so we can finish the semester Pellissippi Strong. This includes everything from offering advising and tutoring online or by phone to making sure our work-study students and part-time employees get paid, even if their jobs change to duties they can do remotely. 

Although classes are moving to an online format for the rest of the semester, at least one computer lab on each campus will continue to operate its normal hours. However, there will be a reservation system put in place after the college’s extended spring break ends March 29 to ensure that there are no more than 10 people in a lab at one time. The same is true for classes that need to hold labs on campus to complete the semester. Instructors may meet with nine or fewer students in a lab while practicing social distancing measures of leaving at least 6 feet between individuals. 

As Pellissippi State transitions to an online learning environment, students can submit questions and concerns about technology, coursework, and support services to our new PantherHelp team at this link. Pellissippi State will continue to update its website – www.pstcc.edu/coronavirus – with frequently asked questions, as well as new pages of resources for faculty, staff and students.  The college also will communicate with faculty, staff and students via their Pellissippi State email and Pellissippi State’s social media accounts. 

Meanwhile, Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services has suspended all non-credit classes until further notice as well and is working with those instructors to discuss rescheduling options. Those with questions about non-credit classes should call 865.539.7167 or email bcs@pstcc.edu. 

“Although these are challenging circumstances, I look forward to the day when we can gather in community on campus once again,” Wise said. 

View Wise’s video message to faculty, staff and students today at www.pstcc.edu 

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