Floritzel Garcia Hernandez
At a 5 p.m. special meeting last Friday, the State Center Community College District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to impart Chancellor Paul Parnell with emergency powers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
With that vote, the trustees gave the chancellor the power to relocate students and staff, implement telecommute options for employees and cancel in-person classes.
Many SCCCD presidents said they were concerned over inadequate electronic access and that worry was one of the reasons the libraries at their campuses would remain open.
“I’m not so worried about the virus, I’m more worried about the panic,” said Carole Goldsmith, president of Fresno City College.
President of Madera Community College Center Angel Reyna said that they sent out an email that morning to let students know classes were cancelled this Monday through Thursday, but that the campus’ food pantry and library would remain open.
Reyna says that their plan is to use Zoom, an online video communication website, to continue education and avoid further spread of the novel coronavirus.
Reedley College President Jerry Buckley said they also have similar plans, but they want to expand wi-fi across campus so that students can have access to the internet to do their school work.
Classes like nursing, though, cannot be taught online so the board has decided to continue them, but that could change as further decisions are pending.
Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration, Cheryl Sullivan said 2,200 classes would need to be arranged online so that students can continue their education. Only 500 are currently being taken online.
Sullivan said that the four days students have off should help teachers, students, staff, faculty and administrators set up a plan to prepare for online instruction and that if the online system could not handle it another solution would be to go division by division and department by department.
She also added that as much as they discourage student loans because it can create debt, in this precise case they encourage loans since the spread of COVID-19 can affect many students’ jobs.
Teachers who have no experience in online classes will be helped and resources for those with special accommodations will be taken.
At the meeting, it was announced that the Fresno County Department of Public Health has another new case of COVID-19 they are treating and one confirmed case in Madera County and a new case in Tulare County still exist.
Thirty-two K-12 school districts have announced the cancellation of classes including Central Unified, Fresno Unified and Madera Unified.
These moves have created concerns not only for students and teachers but also for parents who now have to find a way to work and care for their families at the same time. Other K-12 districts in the Valley like Kingsburg Joint Union and Visalia Unified have also cancelled classes in the wake of these districts’ decisions.
Trustee Eric Payne was concerned over faculty pay and healthcare.
Chancellor Parnell said that as far as he knew, adjunct faculty would get paid, but that it would not include healthcare while contracts for full-time faculty would remain in place. The board further advised worried faculty members to make use of the Affordable Care Act.
The Rampage is further covering the State Center Community College District’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
See our coverage of the district’s decision to cancel classes here and FCC’s official statement to students and faculty here.