Cerritos College closes campus, plans for future semesters

It+is+still+unknown+when+Cerritos+College+will+reopen.+The+campus+has+been+closed+to+the+public+to+prevent+the+spread+of+COVID-19+since+March+13%2C+2020.+

Kianna Znika

It is still unknown when Cerritos College will reopen. The campus has been closed to the public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since March 13, 2020.

Kianna Znika, Editor in Chief

The decision to completely close the Cerritos College campus for the Spring 2020 semester and switch to an online-only learning format was announced in a press release on March 13, with classes then resuming on March 30 after an extended spring break. 

Since then, many faculty members and students have expressed their concerns and continue to look for support and various solutions as they navigate through this unprecedented time.

According to Dr. Jose Fierro, Cerritos College president, the school had already been working on a three-step emergency plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, the process had to be accelerated due to Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Stay-at-Home” order on March 19. 

“We had already made the decisions to shut down the campus,” Fierro said. “But we were hoping to have the beginning of the following week to do it.” 

“We wanted to give people the time and the tools to implement the changes that we were asking them to make,” he added. 

Bobbi-Lee Smart, a current part-time faculty member of the Sociology Department, states she was on a call with Fierro when he received word that the LA community college district was closing. 

“No one thought we’d be closed for the rest of the semester,” she stated. “This is not easy for anybody.”

“Many of our faculty and staff administrators are not used to working in this type of environment,” Fierro said.

The quick switch to online proved to be challenging for many departments that relied on in-person teaching and labs such as the Cosmetology Department, which is said to be “a 75% lab-based program.” 

“Our concerns, not just for me but I know also a few of my classmates, is that now we aren’t able to work hands-on and practice, so will we be really ready when we are out on our own?” Stephanie Mora, a cosmetology student, said. 

Cerritos College offers various types of support for the students, such as an emergency student fund and a “Cerritos Cares” webpage which provides the students with access to multiple resources. 

Faculty concerns have been addressed in frequent faculty senate and board of trustees meetings. 

Due to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, items such as Spring 2020 evaluations were discussed to be postponed to the fall semester.

Adelle Krayer, director of the Cerritos College Dental Hygiene Program, said it would be “unfair to evaluate people in a format that they are just learning to do.” 

Smart emphasized the important of making sure faculty has the resources they need. 

“The student experience is only as good as what the faculty can give them,” she said. 

As of right now, the campus has yet to confirm its official plan for the Fall 2020 semester. 

Even if the campus does reopen, without a COVID-19 vaccine Fierro does expect students and faculty members to be concerned with going back into classrooms.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the students and faculty will choose to stay online,” he said. “I will expect to see an increase on the demand for online programs.” 

It’s already been decided that summer classes will be online-only. 

Based on data collected by a student survey, the 2020 Commencement Ceremony will be moved online as well.

Out of about 1,400 potential graduates, 39% prefered postponing the ceremony to a later date, when/if public health guidelines allowed.

Due to these results, a postponed in-person ceremony “will continue to be explored for December 2020.” 

Fierro explained the school is waiting for more data from the Department of Health before making an official decision for Fall 2020.

Smart expects the school to stay online but expresses concern about the future of higher education in general.

“Some students don’t learn well online,” she said. “Higher education, in general, needs to really have difficult conversations about how we’re dealing with this.”