SACRAMENTO, Calif — California colleges are switching to online for the foreseeable future as the coronavirus pandemic continues to force entire industries to adjust to remote lifestyles.
Both the California State University and Los Rios Community College systems will not reopen campuses for the fall semester. CSU Chancellor Timothy White said Tuesday that the 23-campus system will hold most of its classes online, as it has done since closing campuses to its nearly 500,000 students in March 2020. Schools will make some exceptions for in-person instruction, such as clinical training, science lab research and even for performing and creative arts students.
White said in a statement that switching to online instruction is "necessary for many reasons."
"Virtual planning is necessary because it might not be possible for some students, faculty and staff to safely travel to campus," White said in the statement. "Said another way, this virtual planning approach preserves as many options for as many students as possible."
White said it would not be fair reopen some classrooms only to have to shut them down again if there's a second wave of coronavirus cases, which many health officials predict.
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Colin Lewis, an engineering graduate student at California State University, Sacramento, is excited about the switch to online instruction because it's convenient, saving him gas and parking money.
"It kind of helps me out. Now I don't have to go on to campus," said Lewis, who also works full time.
Sac State President Robert Nelson said that before any of the in-person classes are able to take place in the fall, college and local health officials will have to issue the approval.
Mitch Sears, who is in his second year at Sac State, doesn't feel the same way. While Sears said he's glad CSU officials have the health and safety of students, faculty and staff in mind, he said he's upset that he prefers in-person classes.
"Just kind of let down, because I wanted to learn in the classroom," Sears said.
While there are some exceptions to the new rules, any in-person instruction will require personal protective equipment and social distancing.
"Most of Sacramento State remains closed to the public and operates remotely," CSUS officials said. "The University will repopulate in accordance with the Governor’s roadmap stages, using the American College Health Association’s Guidelines for reopening institutions."
But in order faculty to resume instructing online, Education Professor Margarita Berta Avila said they're going to need upgrades.
As a labor union leader with the California Faculty Association, Berta Avila is calling for up-to-date technology, support, and professional development training to make sure professors can successfully teach online long term.
Berta Avila said the summer will be a busy one for professors as they'll have to spend more time adapt their lessons to work online. She said because of the extra work, faculty will need to be compensated.
"[Am I ready] to say I'm prepared for the fall? Right now, at this moment? No," Berta Avila said. "But I think that's my personal — where I am."
In addition to all but closing the campuses, many of the CSU colleges will also lose fall sports.
The California Collegiate Athletic Association announced Tuesday that competition at its 13 Division 2 campuses will be canceled. The CCAA has 12 CSU colleges, including Stanislaus State University in Turlock.
"The CCAA member institutions will continue to advocate strongly to maintain NCAA championship opportunities for all of our student-athletes, including our fall sports, during the 2020-21 academic year and recommend competition resume when it is safe and appropriate to do so for all of its members," the organization said.
Meanwhile, the Los Rios Community College District, which enrolls about 75,000 students annually on its 13 campuses, announced on Monday that it is working to create guidelines to switch to online instruction in the Fall.
Like CSU campuses, Los Rios junior colleges will have some in-person instruction, but officials are "working through those details now."
"We do not take this decision lightly," the district said. "By making it now — despite not knowing for certain what the public health dynamics will be in a few months — it gives our students time to prepare for online classes in the Fall."