Fresno City College President Carole Goldsmith and other faculty members held a virtual forum via Zoom on January 29 to discuss California’s latest COVID-19 updates and resources available for students and faculty throughout the semester.
The forum took place just days after Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, announced that all stay-at-home orders in the state will be lifted as a result of COVID-19 cases decreasing and intensive care unit capacity increasing, according to The Associated Press.
During the FCC forum, David Cousineau, State Center Community College District Director of Environmental Health and Risk Management, explained that the order being lifted puts California back in the purple tier which allows for outdoor dining and certain businesses, like salons, to reopen with modifications.
It does not mean colleges within the district will return to in-person instruction. They will continue primarily online with the exception of certain courses or activities that have been approved to operate on campus.
FCC’s Athletic Director Derrick Johnson and other coaches were already scheduled to discuss their new plans such as the return of sports conditioning.
More information regarding sports will be released soon, according to Goldsmith.
FCC to Potentially Become a COVID-19 Vaccination Site
In regards to vaccines, Goldsmith stated FCC has met with the Fresno County Public Health Department to discuss how the college can help administer vaccines to the public.
“Fresno County Public Health really views FCC as a partner in fighting COVID,” Cousineau said. “As the vaccine deployment out to the communities improves, we anticipate they will activate our FCC site as a point of distribution.”
FCC’s gymnasium has been serving as a COVID-19 testing site for the public since May 2020.
The testing center is open by appointment. Walk-ins may also be available. More information can be found on FCC’s website.
As of now, vaccine distribution conversations between FCC and Fresno County are still in the early stages and will continue to be monitored, according to Goldsmith.
Continuation of remote learning, insight into fall 2021 semester
The final guest on the forum was Vice President of Instruction Don Lopez, who spoke more about FCC’s future.
As vaccinations are distributed and COVID cases decline, Lopez said administration is hoping to have the opportunity to soon return to in-person instruction.
But for the time being, FCC will remain primarily online.
As a result, administration is working to schedule more synchronous courses, meaning they have weekly zoom meetings, because these kinds of courses help students be more successful, according to Lopez.
With the continuation of remote learning, FCC instructors do have the opportunity to voluntarily take training about online instruction.
Approximately 150 FCC instructors are in the process of obtaining a distanced education certification for the state of California, according to Lopez.
Regarding the fall 2021 semester, administration is planning and looking into allowing a limited number of courses back on campus in a scheduled manner.
Accommodating students and instructors is one of the main concerns administration is taking into consideration while planning for future semesters.
“We are probably not going to be at a place where we can take and put 150 students into a forum hall. That obviously could be very problematic from a social distancing perspective,” he said. “So what we are looking at is a more scheduled approach.”
Student Services: excused withdrawal option, financial aid and more
FCC Vice President of Student Services, Lataria Hall joined the forum to inform students of services and resources available for them at no cost.
The hours of operation for student services are Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. All services are being offered remotely.
This semester, FCC will be allowing students to drop courses using the Excused Withdraw option.
However, students must now submit their EW petition with supporting documentation, a change from the EW that was available in the spring, summer and fall 2020 semesters, according to Hall.
The EW will not affect students’ grade point averages or ability to retake a course. Nor will it put them on academic probation or dismissal.
It may affect financial aid or other benefits provided by programs like the veterans’ program.
Hall encourages students to reach out to their counselors and financial aid officers before deciding to drop any courses.
For students in the Disabled Students Programs and Services, a new virtual lobby will be available starting Feb. 2, 2021, in which they can speak with DSP&S faculty immediately to ask questions or request a service.
The lobby will be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The virtual lobby link can be found on FCC’s DSP&S webpage.
In her presentation, Hall also went over other important dates students should be aware of, such as the last day to drop a course and when to apply for graduation.
FCC received approximately $5.6 million though the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
According to Hall, the college is currently devising a plan on how to distribute these funds to students.
Other financial aid currently available for students includes emergency disaster relief for DACA students, Emergency Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant for women of color, emergency allocation for student minority groups and the Finish Line Scholars Program for students close to receiving their degree this semester.
If eligible for any of these funds, students will receive an email with a link on how to apply for them in the coming weeks, according to Hall.
“Please do not withdraw from school. Please reach out to your counselor. Reach out to financial aid and seek the help because we have the funds available to support you and we’re going to try to utilize those in any way possible to help you get across that finish line,” she said.
Tutoring Services Available at FCC
Also joining the forum were tutors Trisha Olsen and Tegan Jones, who spoke about FCC’s tutoring options.
All tutoring services are free and being offered remotely. Drop in tutoring is available for students, meaning no appointments are required.
On Canvas, students can find tutoring options by picking a course and scrolling until they find, “FCC Tutoring Center.”
Clicking on “FCC Tutoring Center,” will redirect students to a page that lists the different tutoring options such as PASS for English, Extending the Class, and many more.
Tutoring sessions are being held via Zoom. Students are not required to have their cameras on.
Some courses may have “embedded tutoring,” which is when the course has a designated tutor who holds their own tutoring sessions for students in the class. This information can also be found on Canvas.