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Local community colleges prepare for fall semester as coronavirus remains a concern

Posted at 8:48 AM, Jul 09, 2020

For some, the start of a new school year is a little over a month away. Faculty and staff at Allan Hancock College and Cuesta College is preparing to welcome back students and safety remains the top priority as coronavirus remains a concern.

"Not like we had hoped and not like we had anticipated," Jill Stearns, the president of Cuesta College, said. "We will primarily be online as we look for Fall 2020."

While the classes will be primarily online, there will be a few exceptions.

"There will hopefully be some classes that meet in small groups," said Jason Curtis, the college's assistant superintendent. "Those are gonna be the "hard to convert classes," some of the science labs, art classes, performing arts and fine arts, things like that."

Curtis emphasized classes held in-person will include social distancing, face coverings, and disinfecting of shared surfaces throughout the classroom.

"If you don't wear a mask then you're in violation of the student code of conduct and we would deal with that the same way we deal with other classroom disruptions," Curtis said.

In Santa Barbara County, Allan Hancock College President Kevin Walthers says the community college is taking a similar approach.

"We'll be about 90% emergency remote classes, which will be Zoom classes," Walthers said.

He says social distancing and wearing face coverings will be asked of students in the on-campus classes. These on-campus classes will be limited to career technical programs, like, the police and fire academies, welding and machining, and automotive.

"Before you enter a building, you're essentially affirming that you don't have any of the symptoms listed and you're still going to be wearing a face covering," Walthers said. "We have room foggers, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer throughout the campus now."

Between both community colleges, all regular services will continue to be offered to students, it might just look a little different this upcoming semester.

"We have transitioned our tutoring services, support services are all available online, our student services are available online," Stearns said.

Stearns also said students can come to the Cuesta College campuses to get internet access if that is needed.

For Allan Hancock College, Walthers says services the college offers will still be offered to students on campus by appointment.

"We have a laptop loaner service for our students and we're buying even more laptops that our students can take home," Walthers said.
"We want to make sure they have an opportunity to be successful."

Usually, the college's prestigious theatre conservatory, PCPA, would be in its summer season, however, the season was canceled due to COVID-19. Walthers says classes for the conservatory will also remain at a virtual capacity until it's safe for classes to resume to an in-person setting.

As for athletics programs making a return for the upcoming school year, both community colleges belong to the California Community College Athletic Association. Walthers says an announcement from the association on plans moving forward will likely be announced on July 17.