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COVID-19 likely to keep some local college classrooms empty this fall

The Coast Community College District announced that it plans to keep classes online in the fall.
The Coast Community College District announced that it plans to keep classes online in the fall.
(File Photo)

Though Gov. Gavin Newsom said public schools might be able to open as early as late July or August after having closed in March in response to the coronavirus, local colleges and universities remain uncertain — with at least one area district opting to keep its classes online, at least for the fall.

The Coast Community College District, which oversees Orange Coast, Coastline and Golden West colleges, announced Friday it would have all its classes for the fall semester online. All campuses will remain closed to members of the public with the exception of essential workers needed on-site.

“As of now, restrictions remain in place limiting travel and gatherings. While we don’t know what the situation will be at the start of the fall semester, we do need to finalize our planning,” Coast Community College District Chancellor John Weispfenning said in a video statement to community members.

“No matter what restrictions may or may not be in place in August, we do know we can hold the majority of our classes online,” Weispfenning said.

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Weispfenning said student support services will be provided online but said as public health guidance changes, some courses that cannot be taught remotely may become available on campus and offices may begin to open.

Plans at UC Irvine remain uncertain, though a statement from UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman to students said the university’s goal is to “have as many students back to the campus as possible, and as many in-person activities restarted, consistent with prevailing public health guidance.”

Gillman said he does not believe students and faculty will be able to return to the “old normal” by the time the fall quarter starts, but the university is doing all it can to transition back from distance learning.

He said no final decisions have been made on how classes will be held, and more information may be available in May.

“I understand the desire to look ahead, and I know that other campuses have been making some announcements — although if you look carefully, none of these announcements are definitive,” Gillman said. “There is still a lot we do not know, and it is too soon for any of us to know with certainty what the fall will be like.”

Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, however, said that it plans on reopening for the fall semester and that the university has established several working groups to plan for in-person classes, reopening of student housing and providing student life and athletic activities while observing current public health guidance.

“We remain hopeful that our small class sizes and innovative spirit will support the path forward as we reopen our campus in the fall,” said Michael Beals, Vanguard University president.

Beals said class sizes at the university are about 24 students and the university is working to determine how to provide in-person lessons with appropriate social distancing and health precautions throughout campus.

“While some things may look different, we remain more committed than ever to supporting our students’ academic, spiritual and career success,” Beals said.

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