As of April 30th
Working at home and sheltering in place describes my work for CCA well right now. For the past six weeks I’ve been staying in my house with my children except for weekly shopping trips where I encounter fewer than a dozen masked people. It’s quite restrictive, but it keeps my risk of contracting COVID-19 very low. Many calls, emails, and Zoom meetings keep us at least somewhat connected, but there’s a longing for face-to-face meetings and a continuous search for information in the hope of finding just how much risk would occur if those in-person meetings were to take place.
Right now, your legislators and college administrators are having a similar experience. Governor Newsom just floated the idea of opening schools as early as July, while Sierra College has announced that it will go almost entirely online for fall. A few colleges, mostly back east, have expressed their intent to have a reasonably normal fall semester, complete with dormitories and events. We can expect this variation of plan simply because no one knows what would happen if we reopened in-person classes. We don’t have enough facts to guide our decisions.
Of course, we do know some things. We can reduce transmission the virus through the use of masks and improved sanitation. We can reduce the number of students in each class to better improve our chances to avoid an outbreak of illness, and we can better utilize our physical campus, perhaps by holding classes on Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday.
However, we have neither a guaranteed student body nor a uniformly youthful faculty. Will students attend class on a Sunday? Will students and staff be able to maintain traditional schedules if their children’s school schedule becomes unstable? Will students and faculty even be willing to risk illness by coming onto campus? We don’t yet know, so the fall semester is still in flux in most places.
When an environment is full of uncontrollables, it is usually best to focus on what you can control. We do some of this instinctively, which is why grocery store shelves started to go bare last month. Perhaps less obvious is the need for each of us to have basic distance education (DE) training. You may not like DE, you may not want to teach DE, and that is understandable. However, there is a reasonable probability that at some point in the next eight months you will have to reach students via DE, and our accrediting agency ACCJC will be expecting “regular and effective contact,” the US Department of Education will be expecting full compliance with disability regulations, and districts will be wanting to restart faculty evaluation procedures. DE training will help ensure your effectiveness and possibly your employability.
Meanwhile, CCA and CTA have been continuing to represent you at the State level. CCA Vice President Randa Wahbe and I frequently interact with CTA staff. We have regular conversations with the Chancellor’s Office and have been stressing the need to prioritize the classroom and to allocate funding for pay faculty for the time spent altering their classes and learning about teaching methods. We have engaged with the Council of Faculty Organizations to present positions to the legislature encouraging “hold harmless” funding and protection of the “base” portion of the Student-Centered Funding Formula. Next up will be a letter supporting the State Academic Senate position that Calbright is not cost-effective and that its funding should be moved elsewhere in the CCC system.
We expect that California’s State budget will be significantly reduced this year, so our previous funding requests will quite possibly be rejected. I have heard some warn of dramatic cuts, and while they might be correct there isn’t anyone who yet knows what the extended tax year will bring in terms of revenue. So please, stay safe, control what you can, and keep an eye on the news, particularly the CCCCO webpage (http://www.cccco.edu, then click on “COVID-19), the CTA COVID-19 webpage (www.cta.org/covid-19), and the CCA Facebook pages (Community College Association and Community College Association (CCA) Closed Facebook Group). I will send out a second email soon to inform you of recent news specific to CCA.
Yours in unity,
As of March 24th
Dear CCA Colleagues:
We hope you and yours are well and are keeping safe and healthy. The last few weeks have been hectic and stressful for us all. As COVID-19 cases increase daily, college campuses have shuttered and cities are in quarantine as a statewide shelter-in-place order has been enacted. The safety of our students, all of you, and all our families is CCA’s top priority. With that in mind, please know there are numerous useful resources available at cta.org/COVID-19.
With the shelter-in-place order, we are unable to print the CCA Advocate for you. So, the March edition of the CCA Advocate is available for download HERE. You can find other articles of interest on our website, cca4us.org.
Your CCA leadership and CTA staff are continuing to provide information and resources on an ongoing basis to local leaders, including advisories on bargaining and distance learning. During this time of uncertainty, your CCA/CTA family is here. Your CCA officers and CTA primary contact staff are working remotely and are available by cell phone and email.
Although we had long planned on contacting individual CCA members on a monthly basis, you will need information more frequently during this pandemic. For now, we will connect with you as the situation warrants to provide you with news and resources. If you have questions or concerns, please contact your local president or CTA staffer. You’re also welcome to email me and CCA Vice President Randa Wahbe about anything you read in this missive.
COVID-19 RESOURCES FOR YOU
Among the COVID-19—related resources we are continuing to build are compilations of Frequently Asked Questions. These resources are housed on the CTA website (www.cta.org/covid-19) and can be accessed directly or through CCA’s website.
If you haven’t joined the private CTA/CCA Facebook Group, you should consider doing so. It’s a space for us to support each other and our students. Search for “CTA Teaching, Learning and Life During COVID-19” (or click on this link) on Facebook and ask to join. There is a tag specifically for community college / higher education issues. You’ll be amazed at the community and what our members are doing. You’ll also find levity here…and we could all use more of that. This group is intended to provide an online space for educators to share resources, ideas, feelings, good vibes, stories, laughs and memes.
ONLINE LEARNING RESOURCES
The Chancellor’s Office is providing resources to support community college students who are now working in a whole new way — online only. Common questions on topics such as financial aid, transitioning from in-person to online classes, refunds on classes if students withdraw, and what to do if students don’t have a computer or Internet are answered here. The link is on the Chancellor’s website (ccco.edu). CLICK HERE for the specific page.
California Virtual Campus — Remote Instruction and Services Resources
Various California Community College initiatives are hosting a series of free webinars for interested faculty and student services professionals. No RSVP is required. Archived webinars are available at: CVC-OEI Instructional, Student Services, and Shared College Resources Information and HERE.
Best Practices for Virtual Teaching
Many college faculty are already used to teaching courses online. If you are a brick-and-mortar teacher, this webinar provides online teaching basics, specifically on how to create an engaging, impactful, live virtual lesson, so you can maintain that crucial personal connection with your students during this unique time.