Cerritos College President Dr. Jose Fierro announced preliminary plans for continuing online learning through the Fall 2020 semester, with allowances made for certain in-person lab classes.
At the Board of Trustees meeting on May 6, President Fierro offered three proposed solutions for handling the transition into the fall semester: return to campus like business as usual, a rotation schedule for the classes on campus and continuing online lecture classes with some on-campus lab classes.
The third option was agreed upon by the board as the best option.
In an email on May 8, Fierro said “the general consensus from the Board and from our group leaders is that we will mostly continue to operate in an online format in the fall semester, with some notable exceptions.”
Lab classes considered incapable in transitioning to an online environment are the exceptions to this decision.
These classes will be divided into two groups: Group One, consisting of CTE and Health Occupation labs, while Group Two will be made up of “on-hand” labs such as Chemistry and Physics.
The on-campus lab classes will be phased in beginning with Group One.
These classes will see changes, such as the restriction on class sizes and social distancing practices. They will also continue to feature online lectures, only meeting in-person for lab portions.
The school administration will only allow the on-campus meetings of Group Two “as the fall semester approaches [and] if we find that the health data is favorable.”
The reasoning for the continuation of online teaching is to “maintain a low number of individuals on campus” to “ensure adequate PPE and safe sanitization procedures.”
Classes, in addition to a decrease in size, may see “additional procedures such as… health questionnaires and temperature checks.”
This decision to continue online learning was made, according to Fierro, with the understanding that “It is very likely that as we start seeing more people go out and about… the cases of COVID-19 will increase… which could potentially impact our students, faculty, staff [and] administrators.”
“Most of us will continue to do our work remotely… because we want to ensure the continued health of each other and our students,” Fierro said.
During the May 6 meeting, he said “It is better to take a conservative approach, in this case. It is not a race. It is not about opening first.”
While the Board was supportive of this proposal, some members described potential challenges that may need addressing to facilitate a smooth transition.
Faculty Senate President April Bracamontes said that while most faculty members agreed with the decision to remain online, some were struggling with the heavy technological load required to maintain effective online teaching.
Some lack the resources needed, like web cameras and microphones, while others expressed concern for students who lacked the same equipment.
Other concerns, regarding testing of students and faculty, were addressed by Dr. Fierro.
“We ordered laser thermometers to begin implementing temperature checks… [and] as we get closer to reopening, we can obviously always explore the possibility of the testing. You make an appointment… you should be able to get a test at some point,” he said.
While some students and faculty have expressed frustrations with the continued online learning and stay at home procedures, Board Trustee Zurich Lewis said that “Opening up, whenever that does happen, is going to happen when it’s the right time not because… it’s what we want to do to look [like] everything is perfectly fine.”