State says prepare for online classes to continue

Summer classes will be virtual but that could continue into next spring, chancellor says.

The California Community Colleges chancellor said Tuesday that students and faculty should prepare for virtual classrooms into spring 2021.

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While Orange Coast College recently announced that virtual instruction will continue into the summer, California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said campuses should be prepared to continue online instruction into spring 2021.

While he said he predicts that campuses may become partially open before that, some sort of social distancing protocol is expected to remain in place, Oakley said during a press teleconference Tuesday.

“If we don’t need that flexibility, great, but we are asking colleges to be prepared in the fall and the spring to be able to work through that scenario,” Oakley said.

Executive Vice Chancellor Marty J. Alvarado said all California campuses are working with their local departments of health to ascertain the timeframe of when in-person training could resume for hard to convert courses like nursing programs.

“I want to emphasize though, that this also looks very different at every individual campus. It isn’t a one size fits all or one solution and is specific to what’s happening in their local areas,” Alvarado said.

With the current circumstances in mind, the officials said they have adopted flexible policies regarding grading and enrollment refunds.

“The guidance allows colleges the flexibility to issue excused withdrawals which do not count against GPA and academic probation,” Alvarado said.

Orange Coast College recently announced that students can withdraw at anytime through the end of the semester with a full refund and a new EW classification on their transcripts.

According to Oakley, students who are unable to complete a course due to COVID-19 will be refunded their enrollment fees, even if it is after the drop date.

While plans about virtual attendance are still uncertain, the California Community Colleges Athletics Association is considering suspending all athletics into the fall, Oakley said.

Although the chancellor’s office does not handle athletics directly, officials said they are in close communication with the organization and are offering guidance.

“What we’re telling them now is that, just like every other professional sport, do not expect that there will be any athletic events with crowds,” Oakley said. “Whether or not they can come up with a solution to actually allow for competition within that framework remains to be seen.”

Oakley added that $300 million from the recently passed federal CARES Act will be allocated by to the California community colleges system. Students should expect relief soon, as campuses expect to receive funds from the stimulus package by Thursday.

As the guidance from the government suggests, Oakley said that colleges should be using the funds to serve the needs of the lowest income students first.

Campuses, although not required, are encouraged to provide resources for students with food insecurity or establish their own food bank, he said.

“I do think you’ll see every college participating in some way or fashion, depending on their local community, providing access to quality food,” Oakley said.

According to officials, technology resources for students without access are being advocated for on the federal level.

“Some of those resources will come in the CARES Act. In those stimulus packages it’s [specifically] asked to provide funding for our colleges to be able to provide more technology support for both faculty and students,” Oakley said.

As campuses remain dedicated to providing a quality educational experience, the uncertainty of being able to return to class looms far away, officials said. 

A student journalist on the press call was unsure of whether she would return to campus even if the restrictions were lifted. She asked officials about the protocols for sanitation.

Issues regarding sanitation of college facilities are being handled by each campus' local county health department, Oakley said.

Officials are encouraging students to succeed despite the scenario presented and directed them to for more information about resources.

“We feel the resources will help many students get through these next several weeks, if not months, as we continue to struggle through this crisis,” Oakley said.