FRC eyes the fall semester — what will that look like?

By Debra Moore

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As Feather River College prepares for the fall semester, currently scheduled to get underway Aug. 24, there are a lot of questions to be answered including:

Will instruction be in class? Via distance learning? A hybrid of the two?

Will the dorms be open?

Will there be athletics?

FRC President Kevin Trutna, other college officials and the board of trustees are tackling those issues while working with Plumas County Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff, and they are using the summer semester to test some practices.

During an interview May 22, a day after FRC’s monthly board meeting when it was prime topic of discussion, Trutna outlined what could happen this summer and then in the fall.

“We are going to be piloting nursing and anatomy labs this summer,” he said, to determine how in-person learning can proceed. He said anatomy labs would be capped at 13 students with a limit of two students per lab table (designed for four), separate equipment for each student, and with in-lab instruction limited to one-day per week. The rest of the class would be conducted online.

The labs will be an opportunity for the college to practice various measures in the classroom setting: social distancing, cleaning protocols, mask wearing and hand washing.

And Trutna envisions that this in-class and online model will continue. “For the fall, I think we will develop some type of hybrid instruction,” though with variations. “Every subject is slightly different,” Trutna said, citing biology and history as just two examples.

As for housing this fall, Trutna said that a lot of those plans depend on athletics. “Half of our dorm students are in athletics,” Trutna said.

Currently, students just now are moving their belongings out of the dorms — staggered two at a time, over the next three weeks. Each student has a two-hour window to retrieve his or her possessions. When the coronavirus pandemic caused the college to move to online learning and close the campus, the decision occurred during spring break and students had not been allowed to return.

Trutna said that the on-campus dorms as well as the Meadows dorms on Bucks Lake Road lend themselves better to social distancing because all rooms have an outside entrance. By contrast the Pines, located behind Safeway, has a shared hallway and restrooms. The on-campus dorms have one bedroom and a living area and would be limited to just two students each. Provisions would also be made to save some rooms for quarantining students should the need arise.

More will be known about athletics following two upcoming meetings — one on May 29 and the other June 5. Trutna serves on the statewide community college committee dealing with athletics and will be part of the discussions. A decision is expected on the fall semester sports — football, soccer, cross country and volleyball — following the latter meeting.

Trutna said some of the options being considered include limiting the number of games, suspending overnight travel, moving games to the spring,  pushing back the start of the season or shortening it. Of course, each sport could be handled differently.

While it’s unknown if athletes from out of the area will be attending FRC this fall, Trutna expects to see an increase in local students. In community colleges across the state, “local student attendance is way up as is dual enrollment for high school students.”

Students and their parents may be less inclined to pay for the cost of four-year universities if they will be limited to an online experience.

The college is also developing a plan for its fitness center and pool so that the facility is ready when the state allows gyms to reopen.

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