As community college students and faculty prepare to return to school for the fall term, many may wonder what COVID-19 health and safety measures will be implemented.
The answer, for the most part, will depend on the individual campuses. With 116 community colleges statewide, including more than 20 in Los Angeles County, many details will be determined by individual college districts.
For example, while the University of California and California State University require staff and students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus on campus, the California community college system leaves that decision to local college districts.
This is because the CCC chancellor’s office does not have the legal authority to require everyone in the system to get vaccinated. CCC officials, however, are encouraging local districts to mandate vaccinations, with exemptions based on medical or religious reasons.
“The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we can all start doing the things we love on and off campus again,” said Pamela Haynes, Chair of the CCC Board of Governors. declaration. “We all play a major role in the security of California.”
Will my school require vaccinations?
It remains to be seen whether the presence of the most contagious delta variant, the UC and CSU mandates, or the state’s orders this week that all health workers be vaccinated – and a similar order from the chair of the watchdog. County of LA, Hilda Solis, whom all county employees get vaccinated – will have an impact on how community colleges deal with the issue of a vaccine warrant.
Responses have varied so far.
The Los Angeles Community College District, which is made up of nine schools – East LA, City, Harbor, Mission, Pierce, Southwest, Trade-Tech, Valley, and West LA colleges – will require everyone to provide proof of vaccination or undergo tests. regular testing to access “any building, classroom, library, gymnasium, facility or other interior setting in the district,” voted the district board of directors this week.
Likewise, Long Beach City College will require students and staff to prove they are vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis, a college representative said.
A similar policy exists at Pasadena City College, although unvaccinated students may come to campus under limited circumstances, such as to borrow a laptop or wireless hotspot or to make a quick transaction in student services or the library. While visiting, they should adhere to campus guidelines, such as wearing a mask, social distancing, symptom screening, or a quick COVID-19 test.
Some schools do not require proof of vaccination.
“Currently, El Camino College does not require proof of vaccination status. We have, however, set up screening kiosks at key campus entry points for students, staff and visitors to perform daily health checks, ”wrote Ann O’Brien, spokesperson for the college. based in Torrance, in an email.
Without mandating vaccines, some schools have looked for ways to encourage students to get vaccinated.
Schools in the LA Community College district will host vaccination sites where vaccinated students can receive up to $ 150, said William Boyer, district spokesperson. Many will also offer food gift cards, bookstore credits and other incentives to encourage students to get vaccinated, he said.
Likewise, Long Beach City College students who get vaccinated between August 2 and August 30 will be eligible to receive a $ 300 voucher at campus bookstores.
What about masking?
The LA County Health Department requires that everyone, regardless of their immunization status, wear masks indoors in public places, although accommodations may be made for those with a medical condition or condition. another exemption.
As for the exterior? Many community college districts do not require masking outside on school grounds, although they recommend it, especially for unvaccinated people and when in large crowds.
Many, if not all, campuses also require daily health exams, where students and staff answer questions online, on an app, or at a school kiosk to gain admission to campus.
How many classes will be in person?
The distribution of classes that will be in person will vary by school.
For example, 20% of the classes at Rio Hondo College in Whittier – namely police, fire, nursing, and automotive technology classes will be in person, which is roughly the same rate as El Camino. College, according to college representatives. .
“We have taken a measured approach to returning to teaching in-person, knowing that not all students are comfortable returning to class on campus,” said O’Brien, of El Camino College. “However, we know that not all students learn and thrive in an online environment. As a result, approximately 20 percent of the courses will be offered in person this fall.
At Long Beach City College, about 30% of classes will be conducted in person, said Marlene Drinkwine, vice president of business services at the college.
“Essential labs on campus, like nursing or trade schools, will continue to be very different from those before COVID – social distance courses, classrooms at 50% capacity, and metrics sanitation in every room, ”she said.
At Cerritos College, Norwalk, half of the courses in each department will be delivered in a hybrid format, meaning that the courses will be a combination of in-person and online instruction. On-site classes will generally be limited to 50% of capacity or 200 students (whichever is less).
Pasadena City College, meanwhile, plans to run about three-quarters of its classes in person. The remaining 25% will be online, according to Alex Boekelheide, special assistant to the superintendent / president.
How do colleges support students?
Many students dropped out of community college during the pandemic due to hardships including loss of income and family responsibilities.
Statewide, community college enrollment fell 12% in fall 2020 compared to fall 2019, according to Rafael Chávez, spokesperson for the CCC chancellor’s office. A CCC survey found that 41% of students saw their working hours cut, were made redundant or put on leave during the pandemic. About 57% also face some form of basic needs insecurity, such as food or housing insecurity, he said.
Rio Hondo College Superintendent / President Teresa Dreyfuss described in an email how her school is supporting students during this unprecedented time.
“We are providing learning tools for low socioeconomic status students and students of color with Chromebooks, laptops, computer software and access points,” she said. “In terms of basic needs, we have a pantry on campus, a take-out food distribution (and we) provide resources for shelter for homeless students, counseling services for mental health, tutoring and study spaces. “
Other campuses offer similar support services. Students should check with their schools for specific services offered.
Chávez noted that while the pandemic has disrupted the lives of students and made it difficult for many to continue their education, the California community college system – which typically serves 2.1 million students per year and is the largest system higher education in the country – works hard to recover students. on the right track.
“Colleges are focused on retaining existing students and re-engaging students who quit… or didn’t enroll in the first place,” he said.
Many of our students are parents as well, so resuming face-to-face teaching in K-12 schools should allow them to re-engage in their college plans, ”he continued. “Retaining and attracting more students will be vital to California’s economic recovery and long-term well-being. “
Editors Hunter Lee and David Rosenfeld contributed to this report.