Community Colleges Ready for Spring Term

Like thousands of other Ventura County community college students, Michelle Sunken and Rachelle Blasingame don't start classes until today.

Nonetheless, the two 18-year-old freshmen spent Monday touring the Ventura College campus, readying for their second semester of post-high school education.

"I'm trying to find my classes now so I won't be a loser (today)," said Sunken, who will study speech, philosophy, math and accounting this semester.

"I plan to get my general education down and then transfer to a four-year university," said Sunken, who holds down two part-time jobs in addition to attending classes.

Less than 24 hours before today's opening of the spring semester, the community colleges in Ventura, Oxnard and Moorpark were nearly deserted, with only a handful of students, teachers and groundskeepers roaming the campuses.

Still, administrators have spent weeks preparing for the opening, drawing up class schedules and positioning the Ventura County Community College District for its first semester in years without the late chancellor Thomas G. Lakin, who died in November from a sudden illness.

"It's a challenging time," said district official Barbara Buttner.

"We have that leadership issue, and there's a new style that affects the whole district," said Buttner, referring to the naming of Moorpark College President James Walker as interim chancellor. "So there will be a new way of doing things."

The district was barely able to balance its $58-million budget last year after a series of deficits caused primarily by declining property tax revenues statewide.

It stands to lose $1 million or more next month when seasonal budget adjustments are made in Sacramento.

"We don't know what the budget is going to look like for certain," Buttner said. "But I'm confident that things are going to work out."

On Monday, Blasingame was studying a campus directory, tracing an imaginary line from the north part of the campus south to another classroom.

"I have to go from here to here in like five minutes," said the 1994 Buena High School graduate, who plans to transfer to UC Irvine in two years. "So I'll have to be booking."

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