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Enrollment challenges continue at Umpqua Community College, president says music and theater programs will not go away

Umpqua Community College President Debra Thatcher released a statement Saturday evening about the college’s dedication to performing arts, as news circulated online that music and theater were being eliminated from the college.

“I assure you that the arts are NOT going away and that community members have been heard,” Thatcher’s message read. “The arts are an important part of UCC’s mission to enrich communities, and we have a commitment to the arts. Our desire is to re-establish the college as a center for the arts in Douglas County.”

A message circulated by local music educators said the college was planning to suspend the music programs in Fall 2021, discontinue the community music ensembles and eliminate the theater faculty position.

Jason Heald, director of music at Umpqua Community College, said the situation was evolving rapidly.

“The situation is being addressed and it appears to be moving in a positive direction,” he said.

On Saturday, Thatcher acknowledged that discussions had taken place about challenges in the music and theater programs at the community college.

“Discussions have indeed been underway regarding how to respond to the enrollment challenges in a number of programs and courses, including those in music and theatre,” Thatcher said. “We are in the midst of a series of meetings about music and theatre, and the message sent to community members was premature and presumptive.”

Thatcher added that instead of finalizing plans for the art programs in the next two months, the planning time would be extended to December 2021. She also confirmed that the full-time theater faculty member will be on staff for fall term.

Thatcher will be retiring at the end of June 2021 and a new president is expected to take over on July 1.

Umpqua Community College has struggled financially for several years and has made the decision to cut or modify several programs; The automotive program no longer offers a two-year associate’s program but rather a one-year certificate program. The cafeteria was closed to save money. The child care center was taken over by Maple Corner Montessori. And discussions started earlier this school year to find cost-savings for the Southern Oregon Wine Institute.

“We cannot be all things to all people, and we cannot keep doing business the way we have for multiple years; but we can certainly structure our programs and offerings in a way that is financially sustainable and meaningful for all involved,” Thatcher said Monday. “Bottom line: UCC should be positioned as the destination choice for education, cultural events, and arts education enrichment in Douglas County and beyond.”

Since 2017, five students have graduated from the music transfer program at Umpqua Community College.

The music department has an articulation agreement with Southern Oregon University, which means credits from classes taken at Umpqua Community College will transfer to the four-year institution. This way students only have to take two more years of classes before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music.

There have been some students who take music classes, but do not declare it as their major. Additionally, there are also many students who leave after one year, according to a statement from the college.

“Our general education music courses in the AAOT (Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer) program have a healthy enrollment,” Thatcher said Monday.

Similarly the enrollment in theater courses, such as acting or production have very few students enrolled — no more than three— according to the college. However, general education theater courses, have a healthy enrollment.

There is no theater degree available at the college, but students can take the courses as part of the transfer program. The college also hopes to offer several theatrical productions a year.

“To cover instructional and facility costs, we need a minimum of 12-15 students per course,” Thatcher said Monday.

The college spends between $160-$170,000 on music and $77-$85,000 on theater out of its general fund budget each year.

Several community members contacted the college to lend their support for the performing arts programs after reading the initial news on social media.

“UCC’s Music and Theater programs have many inherent far-reaching benefits, some direct to students, some indirect to the community at large,” community member Joe Ross said. “The staff are top-notch and the programs always very enjoyable. Many generate income and are largely self-sufficient. The pandemic has no doubt taken its toll, but recovery is expected. I urge you to not suspend the music program, discontinue community performance ensembles, or eliminate the theater position. I urge you to clearly articulate any proposed changes to your programs. Once these are laid out, I urge you to provide more opportunities for public discussion and input.”

Community music ensembles are open to both students and community members, and according to Heald most music educators in the area are a part of at least one of these ensembles as part of their professional development. Heald added that it is common at smaller colleges to backfill the ensemble spots with community members as there are not enough UCC students to make up a 70-person concert band.

“We will work with the community to determine, identify resources to sustain these ensembles,” Thatcher said.

“We can all work together — the community, UCC faculty and administration, and the UCC Board — to create music and theatre offerings that are vibrant and sustainable,” Thatcher wrote in the conclusion of her message on Saturday.

On Monday, she explained that by May 1 there will be a music task force and a theater task force in place.

“Performing Arts programs are vibrant and sustainable when enrollment and fundraising effectively cover instructional, program, and operational costs,” Thatcher said Monday. She later added, “Increasing enrollment will make a huge impact toward our success in these two programs. In addition, diversifying our offerings will be needed such as high school connections, summer institute or festival, and so forth. We need to determine a viable way to account for each member of our community ensembles in a way that is accepted by compliance and funding agencies.”

New shelter will help victims of domestic violence, Archie Creek Fire refugees

The hotel sits empty now, probably for the first time in a long time. But soon it will be full again, a haven where people can feel safe and welcome and get help pulling their lives back together.

Peace at Home, a Roseburg nonprofit organization that serves victims of domestic violence, was awarded a $1.5 million state grant to buy a Douglas County hotel and turn it into a unique shelter for its clients as well as those forced to leave their homes because of the Archie Creek Fire.

Its location is not being revealed to ensure the safety of those who will be living there.

The grant came from the Oregon Community Foundation as part of a statewide push to help vulnerable communities, including those who lost their homes in last year’s wildfires. Peace at Home took possession of the hotel last week.

“I’m super grateful that it’s almost move-in ready,” Melanie Prummer, executive director of Peace at Home, said during a walk-through of the hotel.

The fact that the hotel and its two dozen or so rooms are in such good shape means those needing shelter should be able to move in in just a few weeks, she said. The first order of business is taking care of the basics, Prummer said — installing security measures like state-of-the-art fire alarms as well as making sure the utilities are working properly.

Not all rooms are the same size, allowing for some flexibility for living situations, Prummer said. There are a handful of adjoining rooms that would allow families to have more space, she said. Prummer has ordered 10 ready-made kitchenettes, complete with a sink, stovetop, cabinets, and refrigerator that will be installed in some of the larger rooms.

There is also an area that will be converted into offices for Peace at Home staff, and a kitchen that could provide some unique opportunities, Prummer said.

“We may continue using the kitchen so that we can help build community,” she said. “We’re also looking at other community activities, outdoor things like barbeque and spaghetti feeds, so people can get out of their rooms.”

Peace at Home, which was formerly Battered Persons Advocacy, has about two dozen staff. The agency is partnering with the organization Glide Revitalization, which is helping the hundreds of individuals who lost their homes the Archie Creek Fire. Some of those individuals will be offered shelter at the converted hotel.

Prummer said she is hiring a couple of additional staff to help with the specific needs of those people who lost their homes in the wildfire. Having a shelter that combines people who lost their homes in a wildfire and victims of domestic violence is a first for Peace at Home, Prummer said.

“It’s not completely unheard of but there are challenges to that. It’s really about whether our model is a fit for people,” she said. “I hope that everyone will see it as a really positive place. We’re trying to build a community.”

A LIFELINEThe Oregon Community Foundation program is in its infancy. It dates back to last November, when the Oregon Legislature’s emergency board allocated $65 million in state funding to purchase financially distressed motels across the state in an effort to deliver housing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires. Some of these properties may ultimately be converted into long-term housing.

Two distinct funds were provided by the state: one totaling $30 million to be awarded in counties and tribal communities impacted by the 2020 wildfires; and one totaling $35 million for the remaining 28 counties in the state. Oregon Community Foundation is administering both funds through an application and selection process, with guidance from an advisory committee of state, local and community stakeholders.

“Last year’s wildfires were devastating. Many survivors lost everything,” Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney said in a news release. “The Emergency Board stepped in with funding. That was just the first step. Now this project will give them a place to stay. I am happy to see Project Turnkey hard at work.”

So far eight community agencies have received funding under the program, with more than $22 million in funds distributed. More funding is in the pipeline, said Megan Loeb, program officer with the Oregon Community Foundation.

The goal of the program is to provide funding for between 800 and 1,000 shelter units total in a “rapid fashion,” through these hotel conversions, Loeb said. The hope is that these initial emergency shelters can help people stabilize their lives so that they can transition into more permanent housing, she said.

“We all know that a shelter is a gateway to permanent housing,” Loeb said. “A shelter is never the end of the process.”

Missy Cox knows more than most people the critical role an emergency shelter can play in someone’s life. She’s been there.

Cox received services from the former Battered Persons Advocacy for more than a decade. During that time she was the victim of severe domestic violence, battled a heroin addiction and became homeless.

The services she got were literally a lifeline for her, Cox said.

“My advocate at the time connected me to resources which helped me start making changes in the right direction. She accompanied me to court hearings and to medical appointments,” she said.

With the help of Peace at Home, Cox turned her life around and set out to help others do the same. Today she is employed as a shelter case manager for the organization. The thought of the new shelter is heartwarming, she said.

“I am feeling both nostalgic and excited to see and be a part of these significant changes,” she said. “From where I sit, Peace at Home is the most incredible agency far and wide.

“Peace at Home employs compassionate, educated, and trauma-informed advocates who are here to help victims find safety. Our future is bright knowing that with this change comes a greater opportunity to provide services to people in our community.”

Oregon Health Authority calls halt to use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine due to rare blood clot cases

The Oregon Health Authority announced Tuesday morning that the state’s vaccine providers should immediately stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The request followed an announcement from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration Tuesday morning.

Six cases are being reviewed in which women ages 18 to 48 developed a rare and severe type of blood clot after receiving the vaccine.

The symptoms occurred six to 13 days after the women were vaccinated.

As of Monday, 81,255 Johnson & Johnson vaccines had been administered in Oregon, and 203,200 doses of the vaccine had been delivered to sites across the state.

Nationwide, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered, the CDC and FDA said in a joint statement Tuesday.

“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” the statement said. “COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously.”

It said people who received the vaccine and develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.

The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported seven new cases Monday and eight new cases Sunday.

Roseburg Public Schools announced Monday that a person who had been at Hucrest Elementary School tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday. All those who need to quarantine have been contacted.

Nine county residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, six locally and three out of the area.

Aviva Health hopes to vaccinate as many as 300 people who live in the Myrtle Creek area at a Wednesday clinic there.

The clinic will be at the Myrtle Creek Elks Lodge, providing an opportunity for Myrtle Creek area residents ages 18 years and older to get the COVID vaccine. The event will run from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Both appointments and walk-ins will be taken. Participants do not have to be current Aviva Health patients, but they do need to be 18 or older. Myrtle Creek area residents can call 541-672-9596 to schedule an appointment for the vaccine. Walk-ins will have to arrive no later than 3 p.m.

The newly formed Douglas County Tiger Team will be holding pop up clinics in the following rural areas this week:

Toketee and surrounding area: From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, they’ll be at PacifiCorp, 7200 Toketee School Road, Idleyld Park.

Camas Valley area: From 8 to 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, at the Camas Valley Fire Department, 142 Burma Road, Camas Valley.

Tenmile area: From 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Tenmile Fire Department, 158 Reston Road, Roseburg.

Melqua-Melrose area: Starting at 7 a.m. Thursday at the Coles Valley Vineyards, 10003 Melqua Road, Umpqua.

More information about Tiger Teams and their pop up clinics is available at the COVID-19 Hotline at 541-464-6550.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 499 new cases and no new deaths Sunday. It reported 294 new cases and one new death Monday.