Local community college district to stay online all year

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From left, Vice President of Student Services at Mesa College Dr. Ashanti Hands and President of Mesa College Dr. Pamela Luster. (Photo: San Diego Community College District)

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego Community College District announced Thursday it will continue online instruction through the remainder of the academic year, including the January 2021 intersession and Spring 2021 semester.

SDCCD Chancellor Constance M. Carroll emailed district employees Wednesday informing them of the decision. With exceptions for a few programs that are difficult to offer virtually, all district classes have been online and all operations conducted remotely since March 23 to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Hybrid exceptions include various science and clinical laboratory sections, career classes with technical components and classes for first responders, which are offered on campus with all health protocols required. Carroll said more hybrid classes and on campus support services will be offered in the spring if the situation allows, but that the district’s highest priority is the health and safety of its students and employees.

“It seems incredible that we are now in our sixth month of dealing with the coronavirus COVID-19,” Carroll said. “I do not believe anyone could have predicted the longevity of this crisis.”

In her email, Carroll thanked district employees for their “dedication above and beyond the call of duty,” to assist students, many of whom continue to face financial hardship due to loss of income. Seven in 10 district students work to support themselves and/or their families.

To date, the district has distributed $3.3 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds to more than 8,000 students at San Diego City, Mesa and Miramar colleges, as well as San Diego Continuing Education. Another $267,000 in funding is being provided by United Way of San Diego County to assist district students and $270,000 has been contributed by the San Diego Foundation to fund student laptops.

In spite of these efforts, many district students have faced the difficult choice of continuing their educations or supporting their families, especially during a period when many public schools are online. Enrollment is down 8% across the district this fall.

Of particular concern, Carroll said, is evidence that some of the region’s most vulnerable students — including those from lower-income communities and traditionally underrepresented groups — have been impacted the greatest by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We must ensure that the current public health crisis and economic crisis do not prevent our students from making progress towards their educational goals,” she said. “The community and the workforce are counting on our ability to continue delivering a high-quality education and effective student outcomes.”

However, the district has also seen a 25% increase in enrollment in the San Diego Promise, the free tuition program for eligible students. Program representatives believe the surge in new students is partly a result of more students who have chosen to start their educations at one of the district’s colleges, instead of a university.

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