Officials should remain realistic, keep fall semester completely online


With plans to keep classes online at least until halfway through the fall semester, officials at El Camino College need to keep their goals realistic as it is too early to even consider bringing a community — one that faces daily uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 — back on campus. 

Rather than make plans for things that seem unlikely, The Union’s editorial board is calling on officials at ECC to step up and give students vital information regarding what they plan to implement to guarantee the safety of students should they bring back classes halfway through the semester. 

While overall communication has improved with more consistent updates, most emails sent to students and faculty still don’t contain vital information or real updates regarding planned actions.

In fact, it seems ECC officials have waited for other colleges to react before making decisions themselves. 

For example, several colleges, including Santa Monica and Cerritos College began their refund process for students months ago meanwhile ECC just started this week. Notably, this decision came to fruition following the publication of an editorial from The Union calling for refunds within the next 30 days. 

Currently, officials are in the process of determining which classes will be online, a mix of online and face-to-face and regular in-person classes, according to an email sent on behalf of ECC President and Superintendent Dena Maloney on Friday, May 15. 

What officials did not mention is what they are working on in order to guarantee the health and safety of their students should they reopen the campus. 

Officials at ECC could establish hand sanitizers around the campus, put glass dividers between students like a Florida casino, move classes outside to adhere to social distancing guidelines and even bring in a cleaning company every day. 

But that is all extensive, expensive and unnecessary.  

Instead, ECC could simply invest in properly training their professors to keep the entire fall 2020 semester online. 

During the latest California Community Colleges teleconference with Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley on Tuesday, May 12, he said “we are focused on providing significant professional development support for our faculty, including providing them additional tools to improve the experience, not only that they’re having as faculty, but certainly the experience that our students are having now.” 

But Oakley added he can only offer guidance to the 115 colleges he oversees. What ECC administration officials choose to do is ultimately their own decision. 

“Rest assured that faculty and staff are working hard to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible,” Maloney said regarding new and upcoming changes to ECC, via email. “There may be bumps in the road, but I know the patience and flexibility our campus community has shown throughout the COVID-19 emergency will help us work through this process as well.”

Maloney says officials are working on making sure this situation progresses smoothly but if officials decide to bring students back for even just a couple of classes, they need to consider how disruptive that would be to the learning process of a student body that is still adapting to the sudden incredible shift that is online classes. 

The goal of education is supposed to be continuity when faced with obstacles and moving from online to in-person is a very difficult instructional shift, especially quite odd to propose given the uncertainty and volatility of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Bringing students back before being able to guarantee their safety voids the notion that ECC focuses on student convenience.

Students are not lab rats in an experiment hoping tentative plans yield good results. 

There is currently no vaccine, official cure or universal treatment. 

And while social distancing guidelines recommend people stay six feet apart, with all the campus construction going on, it is clear that difficulties will arise when attempting to spread students out. The Union’s editorial board is questioning the plausibility of keeping students six feet apart in classrooms.

There have already been nine confirmed cases at ECC over the last few months, including a construction employee. 

What’s the rush?