The River School To Reopen In June

The River School in Memphis, Tenn., is already offering one non-virtual class and will fully reopen in June, according to Bill Kline, president and CEO of The River School.

The reopening will happen with appropriate ongoing safety measures to protect against the coronavirus, he said, including social distancing and stringent sanitation of all classrooms and facilities.

Kline told The Waterways Journal the school offered one tankerman course remotely during the COVID-19 lockdown at the request of a Vicksburg-area river company, but he said, “The virtual course model has never really worked for us. Rivermen and women are visual people. They really need to see and to be hands-on.”

One open question for the school is when the Coast Guard itself will fully reopen its Regional Exam Centers (RECs). As Kline explained, the River School trains its students to pass Coast Guard exams, which are given at the RECs.

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In the past, the Coast Guard had roving examiners who would travel to other facilities to give exams. Kline, a former career Coast Guardsman himself, said he is aware of discussions within the Coast Guard about how best to reopen, but he doesn’t know if it is considering that model once again.

There are also capacity constraints to consider. Students will have to keep farther distances, and the number of chairs per facility may decrease.

“We’re on a critical path to get back to something that looks like normal,” Kline said. “We know that vessels still have to move, and that means they need trained personnel to operate and maintain them. We’ve got to believe that our customers are still out there.”