SFSC Updates on COVID-19

UPDATE, JAN. 6, 2:16 a.m.: Welcome back, colleagues! Here are some reminders as you ease back into your duties at SFSC:

  • Face masks are required in all SFSC buildings at all campus locations and outdoors when social distancing is not possible. You received fabric SFSC masks and there are disposable masks available throughout offices. You can request the fabric SFSC masks through June Weyrauch at ext. 7218.
  • Social distancing is required both indoors and outdoors at a minimum of six feet.
  • Custodial staff will continue to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
  • Hand sanitizer stations are located throughout SFSC buildings for your use.
  • In the event of a positive COVID-19 exposure, all areas in which an exposure occurred will be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned.
  • If you feel ill with any of the symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, coughing, shortness of breath,
    difficulty breathing, chills, body aches, sore throat, or sudden loss of taste or smell, please do not travel to campus and contact your supervisor.

We appreciate your cooperation and understanding as we keep students, staff, and faculty safe and healthy as we continue to educate and serve our region.

If you have any questions, reach out to your supervisor or contact Keith Loweke, SFSC’s safety officer at ext. 7219.

UPDATE, AUG. 25, 10:45 a.m.: With classes starting for the fall term, if your course has transitioned to online instruction and you need a laptop to use, SFSC is loaning out laptops to students. 

Visit bit.ly/sfsclaptop and fill out the application. 

UPDATE, AUG. 18, 3 p.m.

UPDATE, AUG. 13, 2:30 p.m.:

Increased Sanitization Practices

COVID-19 Student Mask Mandate

UPDATE, JULY 27, 1:10 p.m.: 

College Update on Current and Future Operations

Greetings during these unique and challenging times. I truly appreciate everyone’s contributions to keeping our operations running. There are many discussions and plans happening as we look to the start of the fall term. I have listed several important update topics below. You may have additional questions, and if so, reach out to your area supervisor or division dean. Feel free to contact me if you have a question or a specific need. We are all here to help, and by all means, the update list is certainly not exhaustive. Additionally, things could very easily change in an instant.

In the upcoming days, Dr. Valentine will send a specific update to faculty as they are in the midst of preparing to begin the fall term. Additionally, while this update is current, things can change in a moment’s notice. Your continued flexibility, patience, and understanding is welcomed.

Tom Leitzel

Fall Classes

The fall term begins on Friday, Aug. 21. The schedule of fall classes looks different as there are various options listed. Class capacities in face-to-face sections are reduced to handle proper in-class social distancing requirements, subject to room size and seating configurations. Classrooms will be cleaned and sanitized frequently throughout the day.

Safety Precautions

The safety of our staff, students, and visitors is paramount. As we open for the fall term, you will see added precautions in the form of additional sanitizing stations. There is an ample supply of disinfectant wipes available through our maintenance office. Call Denise Carden at ext. 7090 to request additional supplies or to notify her if a sanitizing station is in need of a refill. The campus directors will be monitoring their individual campus locations. Sanitizing stations will be checked often, but we can all pitch in to keep our campus surroundings as safe as possible. Notify Denise if you see any immediate safety need.

The College also has a limited supply of digital, handheld thermometers. These can be requested through Keith Loweke at ext. 7219. Temperature scans are essential in the SFSC’s health sciences programs and in Panther Athletics. If other areas have legitimate needs for thermometers, please make your request known to Mr. Loweke. The number of thermometers is very limited.

Mask Mandate

To date, face coverings have been required or strongly encouraged in different gatherings at every SFSC campus location. In the fall, as students return on Aug. 21, SFSC will enact a mask mandate, meaning individuals will be required to wear masks or face coverings inside campus buildings and classrooms at all times as long as the mask mandate remains in effect. Individuals who work alone in private office areas do not need to wear a face mask while alone in their individual office. All indoor public areas will follow the mask mandate. Signs will be posted on all entry doors.

There may be some legitimate reasons why students cannot wear face masks. The College is obligated to provide accommodations when the reasons are presented. If anyone has a concern about a student who is legitimately unable to wear a mask, report the concern to the respective campus director, to Charlotte Ellerker (with an ADA-related concern), or Dr. Tim Wise on the Highlands Campus. College administrators will review the situation; however, if an accommodation cannot be made, individuals will be told to seek a remedy that does not involve a face-to-face encounter with campus employees.

Distribution of Face Masks

The College purchased a large quantity of face coverings. All students who registered for face-to-face classes will be provided two cloth masks. Faculty who have face-to-face classes will be given a sufficient quantity of masks to distribute to students as needed. Employees stationed close to entrance doors should be prepared to hand face masks to individuals who enter buildings without a mask. A supply of face masks will be available for distribution.

Special Equipment Needs

Everyone realizes that gearing up for the start of the fall term is different. The delivery of instruction is different too. For the most part, College officials honored the requests of faculty regarding their teaching preferences, including in-class (traditional), hybrid (combination of both in class and online), or totally online. With the workforce programs, online instruction is not totally possible.

If any faculty or staff member has a special equipment (technology-related) need related to the delivery of instruction or services, they should contact their immediate supervisor. There are institutional CARES Act funds available for the purchase of equipment, mainly to support virtual delivery of instruction.

Questions or Concerns

Don Kesterson and Keith Loweke serve as our first-line contacts for COVID-related questions or any reporting of COVID cases you have or you know in your workplace or in our instructional programs. Employees should keep their immediate supervisor informed of concerns.


We always begin the start of the academic year with Convocation. Convocation week begins on Monday, Aug. 17. This year our Convocation kick-off meeting will be observed virtually through a series of videos. The videos will be sent through campus email on Monday, Aug. 17. There will be no mass gatherings as we begin the academic year. The division deans will be providing separate information to their division teams.

Energy-Saving Fridays

Energy-Saving Fridays continue through the weekend of July 31. The College will return to our normal operating schedules on Monday, Aug. 3.

Fall Athletic Schedules

The NJCAA, our athletic oversight group, has moved all fall sports to the spring, except Cross Country. Student athletes will return in late August. This decision impacted the Lady Panthers volleyball team’s competitive schedule. They will be permitted to practice in late September.

Fall Cultural Arts Schedules

The Wildstein Center on the Highlands Campus is closed to all external performances through December. A decision regarding a fall Commencement will be announced later. The staff is planning to offer a limited spring season. Due to social distancing protocols, the capacity in the Wildstein Center is limited to 410 individuals at one time. Unfortunately, our normal 50% discount for shows for employees cannot be honored as long as the current social distance guidelines are in effect.

Additional Information

Click on the links below to read SFSC’s comprehensive COVID-19 information:

Standard Operating Procedures for COVID-19

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

UPDATE, JULY 14, 11 a.m.: SFSC is offering courses in a variety of methods for fall 2020. To learn about the options available, visit: Different Methods of Instruction Available to SFSC Students.

UPDATE, JUNE 29, 3 p.m.: A quick lesson in hygiene from Darlene Saccuzzo, dental education professor at SFSC. 

UPDATE, MAY 21, 5 p.m.: On May 19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education. These considerations are meant to supplement the current guidelines put forth by Governor DeSantis and can be found on the CDC’s website. 

Inside Higher Education offered a synopsis of the considerations which included:

  • Strategies for colleges to promote behaviors that reduce the spread of the virus, including encouraging those who are sick or have had exposure to the virus to stay home, promoting good hand hygiene, and “respiratory etiquette,” and recommending the wearing of cloth face coverings when feasible and when physical distancing is difficult
  • Steps colleges can take to maintain healthier campus environments by posting signage and guides as reminders; installing barriers and partitions; modifying classroom layouts and locations; providing grab-and-go food options and using disposable utensils; and limiting gatherings and non-essential visitors to campuses
  • Suggestions for protecting the physical and mental health of employees and students by encouraging telework and virtual instruction when feasible, and maintaining communications plans

To view the information in its entirety, please visit the CDC’s Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education

UPDATE, MAY 13, 2 p.m.: 

Dear Colleagues,

SFSC at all campus locations will reopen to the public on Monday, May 18. All staff need to report to work at their regularly assigned campus location. Safety precautions will be followed. There will be additional safety protocols in place in offices that have direct contact with students to protect employees.

AA classes will remain online for the remainder of the summer terms. Applied Sciences and Health Sciences classes may resume instruction that was delayed from the spring term. Supervisors will be contacting faculty individually regarding their programs and specific safety protocols. Students in workforce programs will also be contacted to inform them of the reopening schedule. Workforce class schedules may be staggered and class sizes will follow safe social distancing with class capacities operating at 10 or fewer persons. 

Kelly’s on the Highlands Campus will open for business on May 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Patrons may eat inside the Johnston Student Center as long as capacity does not exceed 25%. Patrons must adhere to safe social distancing while inside this facility.

College officials continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation, and a decision regarding classes for the fall will be forthcoming following various meetings and discussions with key individuals, including representatives from the SFSC Faculty Council.

As always, I thank you for your patience and understanding while we deal with the unprecedented situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please continue to be safe and mindful of all the recommended safe practices and protocols at all times. Employees who are experiencing any health concerns, especially with CDC defined pre-existing health situations or immunocompromised conditions, should contact Don Kesterson in HR regarding their return to work.

With sincere appreciation for your commitment to serve students,

Tom Leitzel

UPDATE, APRIL 30, 8:38 p.m.: 

Dear Colleagues,

We continue to operate out of an abundance of caution for students and employees given the information we received to date. Accordingly, SFSC at all campus locations, will remain closed to the public through May 15. Staff should plan to return to their regular assignment on Monday, May 18. In the meantime, employees will continue to work remotely or on their respective campus as needed. Dr. Valentine will contact the faculty with specific information regarding the end of the spring term and the start of the summer terms.

The Governor’s newest executive order provided some insight and guidance that led to this decision. Please contact your immediate supervisor if you have specific questions. I appreciate everyone’s patience through these uncharted circumstances.

Tom Leitzel

UPDATE, APRIL 29, 9:15 p.m.:

Dear Colleagues,

In today’s press conference, Governor DeSantis announced a phased approach to reopening Florida. He followed the press conference by issuing a new executive order. I will be providing specific information regarding SFSC’s plan to reopen once I receive guidance from the Florida Department of Education, which will include clarification of the provisions in the executive order as it applies to our state colleges. I expect to have additional information to share with you shortly. Thank you for your patience while I obtain clarification in order to provide accurate information.

Tom Leitzel

UPDATE, APRIL 24, 10 a.m.: Many students have had their academic and personal lives disrupted by the COVID-19 virus. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law to get support to those most in need as quickly as possible and that starts with college students whose lives have been disrupted, with many facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet.

In response, SFSC, with the support of the federal government’s CARES Act, has developed the Panther Emergency Student Aid Fund to help with immediate financial needs. Any student who has been negatively affected by the COVID-19 outbreak and needs emergency financial assistance is encouraged to complete the Panther Emergency Student Aid Fund Application. Follow the directions to submit the application with appropriate documentation. This application will give us the information we require to respond to need and to provide financial assistance in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Education. 

UPDATE, APRIL 21, 1:59 p.m.: All (AA/General Education) classes that are scheduled to begin in May or June (8 weeks, 10 weeks, or Summer A only) will be offered completely in an online format during that time. All workforce (credit or clock hour) Applied Sciences and Technologies and Health Sciences courses will remain online during May and June or until which time the Governor lifts the “Safer at Home” order which began on April 1, 2020. When the Governor lifts the order, thus allowing the College to reopen to students, then the Applied Sciences and Technologies and Health Sciences programs will resume face-to-face instruction, as appropriate. This will require that each instructor ensures the appropriate number of students per room, following the most up-to-date CDC social distancing guidelines. The dean of each of these divisions will work with each department chair to determine the level of viability/appropriateness to offering face-to-face labs as other state and federal agencies may have additional, program-specific, restrictions.

If the Governor extends the “Safer at Home” order, or if it becomes impractical to complete lab, clinical, or other required obligations based on other restrictions, then the Applied Sciences and Technologies and Health Sciences programs may have to extend their programs of study into Summer B to make up the additional required hours for student completion. A decision will be made at a later date regarding classes that begin in June (Summer B).

Registration for summer and fall 2020 courses can be completed fully online through Panther Central. For registration assistance, contact Advising and Counseling at advising@southflorida.edu

UPDATE, APRIL 2, 12:47 p.m.: Following Governor DeSantis’ Executive Order 20-91 issued on April 1, SFSC will be closed at all campus locations beginning on Friday, April 3 and remain closed for the next 30 days. At this time we plan to return to normal operations on Monday, May 4. If this return to work date changes, SFSC employees will be notified.

According to the Executive Order, education is deemed an essential business; therefore, faculty will continue to serve students virtually. All face-to-face instruction in workforce programs in the Divisions of Applied Sciences and Health Sciences will end their physical class meetings today. Highlands Campus offices will remain operational and staffed where appropriate; however, many employees will be working remotely.

All buildings on all campuses will be locked at the close of business today. Please remain safe and follow all CDC recommendations.

Registration for summer and fall 2020 can be completed fully online through Panther Central. 

For help with online services, visit the Student Services Contacts webpage. 

UPDATE, MARCH 31, 10:30 a.m.: Out of an abundance of caution and to prevent the spread of COVID-19, South Florida State College will postpone the Spring 2020 Commencement. The College will pursue the possible rescheduling of the ceremony at a later date. Students are asked to check their email and southflorida.edu for updates.

The postponement of the ceremony will not impact students graduating and receiving their certificates or degrees by mail if they meet all graduation requirements.

UPDATE, MARCH 17, 9 p.m.: In an abundance of caution, South Florida State College will be extending spring break for students for one week through Sunday, March 29. During this time, all classes are canceled as SFSC prepares to transition to an online learning environment. Classes will resume online on Monday, March 30 and will remain online for the remainder of the spring term.

For all workforce education and limited access programs, exceptions may be made on a program-by-program basis.

All SFSC employees are expected to report to work as scheduled beginning on Monday, March 23.

Additional details will be provided as they become available.

UPDATE, MARCH 13, 11 p.m.: In an abundance of caution, South Florida State College will be extending spring break for students for one week through Sunday, March 29. During this time, all classes are canceled as SFSC prepares to transition to an online learning environment. For all workforce education and limited access programs, exceptions may be made on a program-by-program basis. Classes will resume on Monday, March 30.

All SFSC employees are expected to report to work as scheduled beginning on Monday, March 23.

Additional details will be provided as they become available.

UPDATE, MARCH 13, 11:05 a.m. – As South Florida State College students, staff, and faculty head out on spring break, we would like to share the Florida Department of Education’s guidelines for travel and return:

  • Anyone who travels to a foreign country must self-isolate for 14 days upon return
  • Anyone who embarks on a cruise must self-isolate for 14 days upon return

We will follow these guidelines for all SFSC students and employees, and have asked all deans and directors to inform us of travel throughout their offices and departments. We will work with these individuals to ensure that there is no disruption to their education or employment.

If anyone is exposed to a person with confirmed COVID-19 inside a classroom, that classroom will be cleared, with all students and faculty sent home, and the room will be fully cleaned and sanitized.

In addition, the 2020 seasons for Panther Baseball and Lady Panthers Softball have been suspended by the Florida College System Council of Presidents upon the recommendation from the Florida College System Activities Association (FCSAA). The season will resume on March 29, 2020. As we are informed of any changes to the schedule, we will update the SFSC website.

If there are any updates or changes to regularly scheduled classes or events, we will inform the SFSC community through the College’s website southflorida.edu, social media channels (FacebookInstagram, and Twitter), Daily Connection, and the Blackboard Connect text messaging system will be activated as appropriate.

UPDATE, MARCH 11, 4:55 p.m. – Although the State University System is implementing a process to transition to remote instruction immediately, the Florida College System is operating as normal, as stated by Commissioner Corcoran and Chancellor Hebda in a recent conference call.

Currently, South Florida State College is proceeding with spring break as scheduled for March 16-20. If there are any updates or changes to regularly scheduled classes or events, we will inform the SFSC community through the College’s website southflorida.edu, social media channels (FacebookInstagram, and Twitter), Daily Connection, and the Blackboard Connect text messaging system will be activated as appropriate.

We will continue to monitor guidelines issued by the CDC and will provide expanded guidance should it be necessary.

UPDATE, MARCH 11, 6 a.m. – On Tuesday, March 9, Governor Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency for Florida to secure funding for the prevention and containment of COVID-19.

As you head out on spring break, please keep in mind that non-essential international travel is not recommended and if you do travel outside of the U.S., upon return to Florida, a 14-day self-isolation is advised. More information on the Florida Department Health’s guidelines for travel can be found at bit.ly/advisorysfsc.

If you will not be traveling internationally, but will leave your home, please protect yourself by following the guidelines from the CDC to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by visiting bit.ly/besafesfsc.

If you have questions or concerns about COVID-19:
The Florida Department of Health has dedicated a COVID-19 Call Center for the public that can be reached at 1-866-779-6121. This Call Center is available 24 hours a day. There is also a dedicated email address: COVID-19@flhealth.gov for inquiries.

UPDATE, MARCH 3, 2020, 2:30 p.m. – The College has received the disinfectant wipes. The containers will be made available at all deans’ and campus directors’ offices and can be picked up from there. These wipes are to be used in classrooms and other SFSC facilities in which students and visitors frequent.

The hand sanitizer dispensers will arrive in the next few days and will be affixed to the walls or be placed on stands within campus lobbies and other high traffic areas. They are motion-activated and pre-filled with Purell hand sanitizer. Please remember that hand sanitizers are less effective than hand washing if done with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time.

Chancellor Hebda sent out the following reminder yesterday: “Following guidance from Governor Ron DeSantis and State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees, we request that each college take immediate action to request all employees and students who return from travel to China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea to self-isolate and not return to campus for 14 days after their return.”

We will continue to update you as news becomes available.

UPDATE, MARCH 2, 2020, 3:08 p.m. – South Florida State College continues to monitor news releases and advisories regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak within the United States, including Florida. Florida Governor DeSantis and staff shared current information during a news conference conducted in Tampa this morning. There are two presumptive cases (awaiting CDC confirmation) of COVID-19 in Florida (one in Hillsborough County and another in Manatee County) and it is expected that there will be many more as testing continues. The state has established three testing centers (Tampa, Miami, and Jacksonville) which can identify the virus within 24 to 48 hours. It was reported that 80% of individuals who contract COVID-19 have relatively mild cases that require only home care. Most of the more serious cases requiring hospitalization have involved older patients with underlying health conditions (over 60 with high blood pressure, heart conditions, obesity, and/or diabetes). If you have traveled to one of the areas in which this viral illness has expanded rapidly, officials are asking that you notify your local health department and to self-isolate for up to 14 days.

We have ordered hand sanitizing stations and disinfectant wipes and are awaiting delivery. Upon arrival, the stations will be placed in high traffic areas, and the wipes will be provided to classrooms and offices for faculty, staff, and student use in an effort to limit the spread of this and other viral infections. There are no vaccines available for COVID-19, but health officials continue to emphasize the importance of getting a flu shot and to take personal precautions (see section below) to minimize the risk.

The health and well-being of our community is of the utmost importance. We will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely and provide continued updates as needed.