Chancellor’s office forecasts continued online presence into fall

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The logo for the California Community Colleges system.

On May 12, the California Community Colleges system hosted a teleconference via Zoom, providing updates about plans for the Fall 2020 semester and response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are, at this point, telling our colleges to be prepared to continue to expand their online instruction through the fall semester and perhaps even beyond,” Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said.

While the Chancellor’s Office acknowledges that Governor Gavin Newsom is working towards reopening the state, Oakley said the system is anticipating there will continue to be social distancing protocols in place.

Delta College recently announced it’s scheduling classes for the Fall 2020 semester to be “mostly online,” with hands-on technical career education classes and select arts classes to be offered partially online, partially in person.

“We need to continue to have a presence online,” Oakley said. “We need to have opportunities to serve students remotely and look at ways that we can limit in person interaction come the fall semester.”

Oakley added that the California Community Colleges system has convened a task force to help strategize how they can safely reopen their campuses to the public.

“Just understand that even when that happens, we will still continue to limit the number of people that can gather at any one place,” Oakley said.

The chancellor made note that athletics and club activities would look “very different” in the fall compared to what students are normally used to.

“We’re working hard to figure out how to best maintain physical distancing protocols while ensuring that the students receive the most support possible and the best instruction possible given the situation that we’re in,” he said.

Oakley also addressed the lawsuit that the system filed against the U.S. Department of Education on Monday.

The lawsuit claims the U.S. Department of Education placed restrictions on emergency financial aid grants that are supposed to be given to students whose lives have been disrupted by the pandemic.

Those restrictions exclude undocumented students and students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, as well as students who have not completed a federal financial aid application, from receiving the aid in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

“The hope is to essentially stop the department of education from enforcing the restrictions that they issued around the use of emergency aid funds,” Oakley said.

According to Oakley, the California Community Colleges system is seeking an injunction that will allow campuses to “exercise flexibility at the local level to determine which students should receive the aid and open it up for essentially all students depending on their need.”

“A great amount of the need is with our most vulnerable student populations,” Oakley said. “It’s important that our colleges have the opportunity to provide those federal funds to those students, so that’s what we’re asking for.”

The Chancellor’s Office made it clear students shouldn’t expect their financial aid to be impacted due to the conversion to online instruction.

Executive Vice Chancellor Marty Alvarado said the system is reevaluating the eligibility requirements of some financial aid packages, such as being enrolled as a full-time student.

Alvarado said the focus is on alleviating the burden for students who may have to homeschool children or take care of family members, on top of adjusting to pursuing their studies online.

“We’re taking a look into that to ensure students are not negatively impacted due to the changing circumstances,” Alvarado said.