RCC administrators discuss reopening plans during student forum

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The district sent out an email to students March 12 announcing the plan to reopen campus for the fall semester. However, it is unclear exactly what the regulations for student safety will be. (Daniel Hernandez | Viewpoints)
By Erik Galicia

Administrators reiterated details of the Riverside Community College District’s campus reopening plans during an open forum with over 70 students.

The district recently announced plans to return to in-person instruction during the fall 2021 semester in a pre-pandemic manner: 80% of courses in person and 20% online.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced April 6 that most statewide COVID-19 restrictions could be lifted by June if vaccinations continue to climb and cases keep declining. Herd immunity may be reached by summer.

Chip West, Riverside City College vice president of Business Services, said the 80-20 plan assumes Riverside County will be in a largely non-restrictive tier in August. That plan does not include social distancing requirements or pandemic-related class capacity limits.

“Obviously, if we are still … in an orange tier or a red tier, there are very stringent guidelines that we must follow in terms of capacities of room,” he said via Zoom on April 6. “We will follow those to the letter.”

West added that the college is fixing air filters in all facilities to meet state safety mandates and is installing personal protective equipment and hand sanitizing stations.

Gregory Anderson, RCC president, said vaccinations are strongly encouraged but not required at this point. The district will adjust its policy on vaccinations if state guidance changes in the coming months. RCCD’s three colleges served as vaccination sites for employees the week of March 29 and Anderson said the aim is to vaccinate students on campus next.

Administrators said the district will quickly adjust to the situation should the pandemic worsen dramatically, like it did last year.

But students remained concerned.

Erika Stocker, a student who works in retail, said a good amount of people at her workplace have failed to follow COVID-19 regulations and worried about the college’s plans to address students who do the same.

“We will not allow a student or an employee who violates district or college policy to continue,” Anderson said.

According to Anderson, there have been no on-campus infections over the past year.

West said if a student contracts the virus on campus, any others who came into contact with the infected person will be notified that they have been exposed, but the student’s identity will be protected. The infected student would be required to quarantine for 14 days.

Many were concerned by the district’s communication about its plans. Associated Students of RCC members said one email sent to students March 12 was not enough. ASRCC did not have the answers to questions raised by the student body.

“We’re putting the pieces in place right now,” Anderson said. “We do have a safety plan in place. The next step is to continue working on the schedule and get that out to students. You will be receiving more communication, but right now we’re just planning within the parameters that were already announced.”

Stefany Moctezuma, ASRCC vice president, raised concerns over students not being asked for input on the reopening plans before they were announced.

“You might have been asked the same questions,” she told administrators. “Why? Because we care. We care about other students, we care about ourselves, we care about our family. You guys might not know what’s going on on this side of the screen.”

Moctezuma said she feels pressured to return to campus and that the district’s plans will play out whether students like it or not. She encouraged students to reach out to ASRCC with any questions or concerns.

Administrators acknowledged that communication about reopening has been lacking, and that faculty and staff have also raised similar concerns.

FeRita Carter, RCC vice president of Student Services, said the district’s Safe Return Task Force will provide bi-monthly communication moving forward.

Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac will begin holding monthly open forums on reopening as well, according to Carter.

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