Fullerton College officials are striving to have students return to campus for the fall semester while putting health and safety first.
The college was one of the thousands in the United States that closed its campus and transitioned into a remote learning model since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that higher education institutions use face masks, the proper social distancing of at least 6 feet and for faculty and students to engage in virtual classes whenever possible. The list of CDC recommendations for colleges can be found here.
Knowing this, what is Fullerton College planning for the fall semester?
Many considerations must be taken into account when factoring in the return of on-campus education. Room sizes, social distancing precautions and the number of students allowed on the school grounds are a few of the many restrictions that must be followed before anyone can be allowed on campus.
“…as long as that social distancing guideline says 6 feet, we’re gonna strictly honor that 6 feet distancing. So that means some of our classrooms probably won’t be used in the fall, but our larger ones will,” Fullerton College President Greg Schulz said.
According to a document released by the President’s Advisor Council shared March 23, the criteria for offering face-to-face classes must include:
1. Classes that have been the most challenging to successfully deliver remotely from the Fine Arts, Natural Sciences, Physical Education, and Technology & Engineering divisions.
2. Classes that have experienced declines in student enrollment, retention, and success, especially for disproportionately impacted groups of students.
3. Classes that departments determine will most benefit students if taught on campus.
Many of the classes will remain online unless they meet these criteria. As of this article, some standards are been confirmed regarding the fall semester but no official class schedule is released.
The four divisions in Fullerton College are working towards reinstating as many in-person courses as possible. Each division has its own set of priorities for the classes it would restore onto campus this fall.
The Technology and Engineering Division is currently offering some sessions on campus, including automotive, machinery, and welding courses.
“I suspect it will be the same courses that we had this spring,” Ken Starkman, Dean of Technology and Engineering, said. “…we want to expand out into photography. Possibly into printing and maybe a few other areas.”
Many of the current in-person classes fall under the state’s priority orders regarding front-line workers’ training and education.
“All of the ones that were invited to come back were under the state’s priority orders,” Starkman said. “So, for example, police and fire training for those folks, people who work in manufacturing that’s training for those folks, people who work in transportation like our automotive that’s training for those folks.”
College sports teams are slowly beginning to start training in preparation for an upcoming season however no fans will be permitted to watch during sports games in the spring.
“…for any of our teams that will be competing later this spring, there are significant safety protocols in place, and there are no fans permitted. That’s just one of the rules put in place at this time. It could get lifted in the fall. So we have to stay tuned,” Schulz said.
Currently, little has been confirmed about the Fine Arts division and the return to campus.
“…we are not planning at this time to have performances with guests, just to avoid large gatherings. But what’s possible, maybe towards the end of the semester or in future semesters, is an outdoor performance,” Schulz said.
“…there will be flexibility to offer more in-person classes closer to the start of fall if COVID-19 trends downward; if faculty are willing to teach in-person, and if COVID-19 safety protocols can be achieved in the various labs and classrooms,” said Lisa McPheron, Director of Campus Communications.
Much of what is planned can be changed at any time depending on how guidelines change from the CDC and the state.
“…in a way, the world, we’re kind of in a new normal… our campus quad will be full, we’ll have lots of activities…,” Schulz said. “… we’ll get back to normal, but you know what, probably in a slightly better way if I could say.”