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L.A. community colleges will remain online-only through spring

The closed campus of L.A. City College in June.
L.A. City College, along with eight others in the Los Angeles Community College District, will remain closed at least until summer 2021.
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles Community College District, the largest in the nation, will remain online-only for the rest of the academic year amid the region’s ongoing coronavirus public health crisis, the system’s chancellor has announced.

There will be a few exceptions for classes that support the “essential infrastructure workforce,” such as those training respiratory therapists, certified nurse assistants and electricians, among others.

“We remain in a declared public health emergency at the national, state and local level, and, given the current health orders, safety protocols and restrictions, our best health experts agree that we are still far from full recovery without a vaccine or responsive therapeutics,” Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez said in a letter to faculty and staff Friday night.

Rodriguez’s announcement follows a similar one by the California State University system, as colleges across California and the nation grapple with COVID-19 outbreaks on campuses and in nearby communities.

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The decision will affect mainly low-income students and students of color, who make up the majority of community college students in the district and who rely on their campuses not only for academic instruction, but also for food, healthcare, childcare, libraries and other support services.

Roughly one-quarter of these students lacked regular access to a computer and internet in the spring, according to a survey administered by the district, and an even larger share said they didn’t have a quiet study space.

With the absence of support services and technology compounded by economic troubles and fear and uncertainty about COVID-19, more than 30,000 students across the district withdrew from spring classes.

The community college district has stepped up efforts to provide students and faculty with laptops and to train faculty in distance education — as well as to encourage students to enroll or continue their course of education.

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On average, enrollment across the district this fall is down by about 10% compared to last year — roughly 270,000 students compared to 300,000 last year. At the low end, enrollment at Los Angeles Southwest College stands at 75% of where it was last fall, and at the high end, enrollment at Los Angeles City College is 98% of fall 2019 enrollment.

Elsewhere in Southern California, the Glendale and San Bernardino community college districts have also announced plans to remain remote through the spring term of 2021. Riverside said it is planning to offer online instruction “for the most part.”

The San Diego Community College District has not made a final decision, but Chancellor Constance Carroll has said the district is “moving toward” scheduling and offering most spring classes online, with a slight increase in the number of hybrid classes, especially in science laboratory, clinical and career/technical areas.

Santa Monica College, Pasadena City College and community college districts in Orange and Ventura counties do not yet appear to have made final decisions about academic terms in 2021.

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California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley supports the decision of community colleges that plan to remain online-only and has urged others to make similar announcements, a spokesman said.


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