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PCC Prepares to Resume On-Campus Instruction Monday, But Teachers Balk

Published on Friday, January 21, 2022 | 6:24 am
 

Pasadena City College administrative officials said Thursday they are making final preparations for a return to in-person instruction on Monday but the faculty association demonstrated against resumption and said the majority of its members and many students oppose the Jan. 24 reopening.

Faculty members want to delay the reopening until February. Some students agree. An online petition reportedly organized by students to delay the reopening had attracted over 700 signatures by Friday morning.

PCC Faculty Association President Mark Whitworth said teachers will meet with the administration on Friday to discuss an alternative faculty proposal and their position that the college’s administration should reconsider resuming in-person classes Monday.

Special Assistant to the Superintendent/President Alexander Boekelheide confirmed a meeting with the Faculty Association is scheduled to occur but said it was to discuss the impacts and effects of Monday’s reopening.

“The timing of the return to campus is not open for negotiation,” Boekelheide said in an email to Pasadena Now.

Boekelheide said the reopening has been discussed and planned in various forms since late December. The decision to reopen on Jan. 24 was communicated to students, faculty, and staff on the afternoon of Jan. 1.

Faculty members demonstrating on the PCC campus Thursday want the return delayed until at least February 14.

“We’re here to send a message that the faculty do not feel comfortable returning on the 24th of January. We’d much rather be in line with the other schools in the area and return a little bit later in February when the surge is over,” Mark Whitworth, PCCFA President said when interviewed during the demonstration.

According to Whitworth, nearly 80% of faculty polled by PCCFA indicated that they would like to extend the period of remote instruction.

Simona Supekar, a PCC English professor, said more than half of her students agree on delaying the resumption of face-to-face classes.

“56 percent of my students said that they don’t feel safe returning on Monday. When asked when an ideal return date would be, over half of them said it would be sometime after the Monday return day.”

PCC’s Board of Trustees weighed in on the topic at Wednesday night’s board meeting.

Student Trustee David Ramirez (whose two years on the board have almost entirely been conducted via teleconference) said the time was right to come back to campus. He said that his fellow students are “firmly in support of allowing students that feel safe enough to do so return to campus next week,” he said, highlighting the “millions of dollars” spent on improvements to provide a safe campus.

The  Board ratified the decision to reopen Monday.

It will be the first time most students have returned to campus for classes in nearly two years.

Even so, the college is limiting the number of students and courses offered to further tame the spread of COVID-19. For the Spring 2022 semester, which started Jan. 10, roughly 58 percent of courses are offered face-to-face; the remainder are hybrid or online-only classes.

On-campus class sizes have been reduced to half their usual size, to ensure adequate distance and reduce the chances of crowding.

And in a first among local community colleges, in October 2021 PCC required full vaccination against COVID-19, with limited exceptions, among all students, faculty, and staff that come in person to the campus.

As of Jan. 4, nearly 20,000 PCC students and employees have been verified as fully vaccinated, according to the college’s administration.

“Everybody has their own unique circumstances that they have to deal with,” said Trustee Jim Osterling, saying he had received many letters from students, faculty, and staff about the return to on-campus operations. “I want to commend our administration for spending strategically so that we can return to campus as safely as possible.

“We’re doing the best possible job with the funds we’ve received to make our campus safe,” he added.

Upgraded ventilation and filtration systems have been installed in all campus buildings, according to a college spokesperrson.

 In preparations begun prior to the summer of 2021, custodial staff have established enhanced cleaning and sanitization processes to help reduce the spread of germs.

When students return Monday there will be additional precautions to follow. All students and employees are subject to weekly COVID-19 testing at one of five locations on PCC’s four area campuses. Masks are required in all settings – indoors and out – and the college expects to distribute at no cost more than 12,000 KN95 masks to its students, faculty, and staff.

The college has also made direct grants to students on an extraordinary scale. Since the onset of the pandemic, PCC has provided nearly $10 million to more than 11,000 students in emergency federal CARES funds. Funding continues to be available to help students.

The college works closely with public health officials in Los Angeles County and the City of Pasadena and will adapt its plans as the pandemic continues to evolve.

More information about PCC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on a special section of the college’s website, pasadena.edu/LancersTogether.

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3 thoughts on “PCC Prepares to Resume On-Campus Instruction Monday, But Teachers Balk

  • The PCC instructors need our support. The Omicron variant is still causing mass infections, hospitalizations and death, even among fully vaccinated. All reputable and credible health experts urge that remote learning must remain in place until the virus is eliminated. Reopening recklessly and prematurely, as PCC plans to do, will cost lives, not only among the students, faculty and staff, but also in our community, within which infections acquired on campus will be spread.

  • John, here is what is wrong with your thinking. You commented that remote learning must continue until the virus is eliminated. All the scientists have already told us it will never be eliminated it will become endemic. So we cannot continue to hide in our homes we must go back to try to normalize our lives as best as possible in a safe manner.

  • I agree with both of you. The issue is it can’t be a forced “one-size-fits-all” solution. While cases are trending in the wrong direction, those who are immuno-compromised, are on immuno-compromising medications for other conditions, or care for family members should have an option to decide how best to move forward while meeting their work obligations. The option shouldn’t be “get to your in-person class or lose your job.” (Or to students, “get to class or get dropped.”) Also, this article doesn’t correctly state some of the facts. For example, students are not being provided KN95 masks – they receive surgical (blue) masks which are not nearly as effective against the Omicron variant. Why not follow the example of PCC’s neighboring universities and colleges – a start in mid-February?