Kylene Glisson knows how to wrangle a class of 3- to 5-year-olds. The preschool teacher is an expert at getting them focused when their attention wanes and keeping them entertained.
But doing all of that through Zoom, once the campus switched to remote learning and working, presented a unique challenge she hadn’t faced before.
“It was very challenging at first because preschool teacher is not one of those positions ever trained to be remote,” said Glisson, who co-teaches a class in the Rainbow Room of the Children’s Center. “None of the things we have ever been taught or learned were ever done that way.”
After more than a year of teaching remotely from her dining room table, Glisson is getting her classroom back, at least a couple of days a week through an employee pilot program designed to prepare the campus for Stage 3 of the Safer Return plan.
Glisson is part of the pilot group that returned in late May. A total of 120 employees are a part of the pilot, which aims to not only prepare the campus for repopulation, but also to provide feedback so that the university can make any necessary adjustments leading up to full repopulation, said Employee/Labor Relations & Compliance Director Yasmin Iltchi.
The pilot is stage I of the return to campus plan.
The stages of the return to campus plan include:
- May 24: Pilot group of about 120 employees return to campus.
- June 21: Employees with responsibilities that each division deems the most critical to the operation and functional needs of the university and in compliance with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health requirements return to campus.
- August 2: All staff employees return for a minimum of 50 percent work time on campus.
- August 17: Faculty return in a similar 50 percent plan as staff.
In addition, employees in the pilot program will participate in focus groups and complete surveys to provide feedback on what is working and what changes need to be made to prepare for full repopulation, Iltchi said. There is also an online portal on the Safer Return website where employees can provide input and voice any concerns they may have, she added.
“The surveys and feedback measures are opportunities for us to help support employees and the Safer Return’s continuous improvement efforts,” she said. “The results of the surveys will be reviewed and escalated to various groups, depending on content and feedback, so we can close any gaps or address any concerns that employees may identify.”
Employees participating in the pilot – both the essential workers who have been on campus during the pandemic and those who are slowly making their way back – said they look forward to reuniting with faculty, staff and students.
Ben Lucas, the stockroom and instrumentation technician in the biology department in the College of Science, works Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., providing instructional support to faculty and teaching assistants, remodeling laboratories, and fixing equipment, among other tasks. His job is considered essential, as he is the one who receives department parcels, some of which contain materials that have to be stored right away.
The Air Force veteran and Cal Poly Pomona alumnus (’12, biology; ’15, master’s in biology) said with all of the precautions in place on campus, he has felt very safe. The pilot is a good way to offer that flexibility as employees get reacclimated, he said.
“When I sat in on the pilot (focus group), I knew a lot of people hadn’t been on campus and are just starting to return,” he said. “I think as we transition in, it’s going to be good to hear their perspective and concerns about their work experience. My experience is not going to be the same as everyone else’s.”
Victoria Tapia, who handles the library’s shipping and receiving, also has been on campus through the pandemic as an essential worker. Tapia was hired just a few months before the switch to remote instruction. Suddenly, a laptop loaner program the library had started swelled from 25 to hundreds of requests. A staff of 42 working at the library was reduced to four essential employees on site while the rest worked from home.
“It was so eerie,” she said. “It was strangely quiet. It was so weird to walk through the library and no one was there.”
Tapia said she feels good about the pilot, especially the way it is being done in waves, and is happy to be a part of it.
Adriana Carreon-Ducoulombier, the property manager for the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, said she had been working on a modified schedule of two days on campus a week since the switch to remote work last year. She shares an office with a colleague, but they have set up a schedule where only one of them is there at a time.
“For me personally, it’s been great,” she said. “It’s been helpful just being back in the office. At home, boundaries become a bit blurred, and you find yourself working at all hours.”
Then there is also the interaction, she said, the greetings of coworkers as they walk by and the camaraderie of working in person with colleagues is something she had missed.
As for Glisson, the Children’s Center is aiming for the return of children in early July, a development she is looking forward to, she said. When the opportunity presented itself to be a part of the pilot, she jumped at the chance to return to campus – even though it is just on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for now. Glisson plans to use her time to do something preschool teachers seldom get a chance to do teaching year-round.
“We are getting a chance to re-envision our classroom from the ground up. As preschool teachers, we rarely get an opportunity to start our classroom from scratch,” she said. “There is usually never a break because the children are always there. Now, we can look at where to put supplies. We got new floors over the break…so that will give us a chance to alter the way we lay out the classroom.”