By Debra Moore
Feather River College students are set to resume to classes Aug. 24, but it looks like they will begin as they ended last year — through distance learning — except for those classes such as labs, which needed to be attended in person.
College officials laid out their preliminary plans during the July 16 board of trustees meeting, with all aware that plans could change if the coronavirus pandemic causes the state to issue new guidance.
In addition to what instruction will look like, the officials addressed how to house students safely in the campus dorms, as well as in off-campus housing.
“We are simply out of time to hope for a miracle to get ahead of this health crisis,” said Derek Lerch, the college’s vice president of instruction, saying that classes would be online whenever possible.
Carlie McCarthy, vice president of student services, said that all of the activities normally held in the fall would be pushed to the spring.
FRC President Kevin Trutna said that he had toured the campus with the county’s Public Health Director Andrew Woodruff and Environmental Health Director Andrew Woodruff to show them what measures were in place for in-class learning when necessary, as well as the campus dorm rooms.
The dorm rooms are designed for two people, but Trutna acknowledged that sometimes as many as three students would share the space. This year they are limiting the capacity to two. Trutna said that while health officials would prefer one person per room, Trutna was concerned that it would force the overflow students out into the community.
“I hope we don’t have to reduce capacity by 50 percent,” Trutna said, adding that college officials will continue to collaborate with public health.
McCarthy said that if most classes are held online, many students may opt not to stay on campus and incur that expense. During a follow-up discussion with Trutna after the meeting, he indicated that if athletes won’t be allowed to train in the fall, then it’s unlikely that they be in the dorms until the next semester. As of now, all sports competition is delayed until the spring semester, but whether athletes can train now is under discussion.
Trustee Trent Saxton asked if anyone had talked to community leaders about the potential of students coming from across the state and beyond, with the potential to bring coronavirus with them. McCarthy said that the college was working with Plumas District Hospital to develop a testing protocol and all students would be tested as they arrived on campus.
McCarthy also outlined what student orientation would like.
- Provide orientations outside and socially distanced small groups during COVID testing wait time (4 hours)
- All students will have Healthy Campus and Community Orientation (COVID, Responsible Citizen/Conduct)
- Other orientations include New Student, Housing, Athletic, Ag/Equine
- Stay Healthy Welcome SWAG: facemask, thermometer, hand sanitizer, water bottle
- Students released to dorms check-in upon negative test result
Trustee McNett wanted to know if there would be a protocol in place for students who went home and then returned.
Subsequent to the meeting, Saxton said, “While the college is planning to have returnees initially tested for COVID 19, it is unclear how often or on what basis any further testing will be required. Nor is it yet clear where and how any “infected” students would be quarantined. Given that the students come from a variety of locations throughout California, and that they may travel out of the County and back, it seems likely that Quincy and environs will experience increased infection risk.” He reiterated that he thought county officials should be consulted.
College officials are continuing to develop their fall semester plans and more details will be shared as they become available.