Chancellor's Message: COVID-19 update - August 25, 2020

August 25, 2020 | Constance M. Carroll, Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District

Now that the fall semester is underway, I thought I would bring you up-to-date regarding our activities and plans relative to the continuing coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis. It seems inconceivable that we are about to enter our sixth month of online instruction and remote operations. I hope that you are all well and that you are continuing to adjust to the many new practices that have been adopted. The Board of Trustees and I continue to be deeply grateful for the extraordinary work and the optimistic spirit that you have all brought to this unprecedented moment in time.

As always in my communications on this topic, let me remind us of the two imperatives that govern all of our decisions and plans affecting the District, City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges, and Continuing Education: 1) ensuring the health and safety of our students and employees; and 2) ensuring the continuity of our operations. The faculty’s continuing efforts to provide online instruction and the efforts by classified professionals, supervisors, and managers to work remotely have produced the results for which we strove. Thank you all!

STATUS OF THE COVID-19 SITUATION

Nationally, the virus has decreased somewhat in some areas while spreading to others, especially to rural communities. It is very clear that while there is some reason to celebrate decreasing numbers, COVID-19 is not abating and future surges may be seen. In San Diego County, as of August 23, the total number of cases increased by 187 for a total of 36,727.  2,989 (8.1%) of the cases have required hospitalization and 733 (2.0%) of the  cases have required admission to an intensive care unit.  No new deaths for the County have been reported and the total remains at 660.  The recent “progress” we have seen has allowed the State to remove our County from the watch-list and has resulted in some easing of restrictions.

COUNTY GUIDANCE REGARDING EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

Let me share with you the information we received on Friday from the San Diego County Public Health COVID-19 Education Sector Team:
Good afternoon to our College, University, Trade, and Vocational School Partners,

The Public Health order was updated!  The Public Health Order states that (IHEs) Institutions of Higher Education may open, which includes Vocational and Tech schools, in accordance with the States Reopening Guidance for IHEs. The COVID-19 Industry Guidance for Institutions of Higher Education can be found here and the updated Public Health Order can be found here.

The Public Health Order amended section 4, which now states that “Institutions of higher education may hold classes or other school activities only under circumstances permitted by the State and in compliance with the COVID–19 Industry Guidance: Institutions of Higher Education and as may be updated or superseded”.  The Public Health Order also amended section 16b, which now states to “Require temperature screening of all employees and prohibit entry to the workplace of employees with a temperature of 100 degrees or more, employees exhibiting COVID19 symptoms as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or employees who have recently been exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 (either directly or through a breach of Personal Protective Equipment in the case of healthcare workers/first responders).”

We hope this assists you in planning and helps you to better prepare. Please remember, you still must create, post, and share with employees/students/visitors your safe reopening plan and follow the Big 4, which are requiring facial coverings, social distancing, cleaning and sanitation, and temp checks/screenings for volunteers/employees.

Please join us Tuesday August 25th, 2020 from 4:00pm-5:00pm for the College, University, Trade, and Vocational Schools Telebriefing using the following link https://zoom.us/j/748315012, where we will provide guidance on the amended Public Health Order and answer any questions you may have. You can submit your questions here 24 hours prior to the telebriefing.

Thank you,

COVID-19 Education Sector Team

As you can see, there are still important restrictions, although there is a bit more flexibility.

THE FALL SEMESTER

This fall 2020, classes are being offered primarily online, but some components are being offered on campus in areas where the conversion to the online format has been difficult and/or inappropriate, such as science labs, clinical labs, and hands-on career/technical sessions. The chart below indicates the distribution of fall classes by modality.

enrollment by college and continuing education

While there are still challenges, especially regarding Nursing and a few other programs, the semester is off to a solid beginning. Another 10% to 14% of fall classes will be offered in an 8-week format later in the semester, followed by the intersession.

SPRING SEMESTER PLANNING

The big decision that we have to make is the determination of the format for the spring semester. All educational institutions are struggling with this decision and most are still debating the issues. While the San Diego Community College District is still reviewing options, the College and Continuing Education Presidents and I want to respond to all of the questions we are receiving about this. Until we announce a final decision, this is the direction we are moving toward:

- Most classes will probably continue to be scheduled and offered in the online format.

- Hybrid classes will probably increase in number, especially in science laboratory, clinical, and career/technical areas.

- A few student support services may be made available on campus.

- Strict public health protocols will be followed for any class sections that are offered on campus.

Unless something changes definitively regarding COVID-19, which looks doubtful at this point, this is how we will be planning for the spring semester.

FUNDING ISSUES

Since my previous message on COVID-19 financial adjustments, we have been continuing to pursue other sources of funding, which is critical because of the ongoing impact of the virus and because of the enormous State deficit of $54 billion. We have had success in providing funding for students. In addition to the federal stimulus funding, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included a Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), the City College, Mesa College, Miramar College, and Continuing Education foundations have provided funding for students, primarily for the purchase of laptop computers. As I also noted, the San Diego Foundation and the United Way of San Diego together have provided almost $500,000 for our students.  Recently, the San Diego Foundation has provided another $70,000 for students residing in City District 4. 

Federal stimulus dollars and a State block grant have also assisted in supporting institutional needs, such as equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  We are hopeful that Congress and the President will approve another stimulus package, which is sorely needed as the impact of COVID-19 increases. We have been in touch with our Congressional representatives to urge them to support new stimulus funding along the lines already put forth by the House of Representatives.  Representative Susan Davis has been especially supportive.

CHANCELLOR’S FORUMS – COVID-19 DISCUSSSION OPPORTUNITY

As I mentioned at the recent Convocations, which were virtual, I will be holding Chancellor’s Forums for each of the institutions of our District. Information will be provided on a variety of topics, including the state of COVID-19 planning and related issues, and there will be an opportunity for input and suggestions. Please attend one of these sessions, which have been scheduled as follows (links will be provided a few days before the sessions):

Chancellor’s Forums (via Zoom)

- September 14, 2020: 2:30 - 4 p.m., Continuing Education

- September 17, 2020: 2:30 - 4 p.m., City College       

- September 21, 2020: 2:30 - 4 p.m., Mesa College

- September 23, 2020: 2:30 - 4 p.m., Miramar College

- September 29, 2020: 2:30 - 4 p.m., District Office

Let me close by again saying that the Board of Trustees and I continue to be impressed by and grateful for your work, and for the advice we receive from our community supporters as we move through the COVID-19 landscape. This is a longer journey than we anticipated, but we are making progress.

Thank you and stay well!

Dr. Constance M. Carroll
Chancellor
San Diego Community College District

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