Message from the Chancellor: COVID-19 Update, May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020 | Constance M. Carroll, Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District

SDCCD Colleagues and Friends:

It seems like a year rather than a month and a half since we plunged into the many changes in our instructional and operational formats as the result of the COVID-19 crisis. The continuing efforts of our faculty, classified professionals, and administrators have enabled us to succeed in meeting the vast majority of the needs of our students and the community, from the conversion of class sections to online and distance education formats to the conversion of support services and administration to remote operations to adjusting to federal and state guidelines to providing additional resources for our students. Thank you all for a job brilliantly done!


I am writing about the fall semester, since I have been receiving lots of questions about our plans. I also have provided an article (below) so that you can see how community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities are addressing this issue. All are grappling with whether to reopen campuses, whether to restrict instruction to the online modality, or whether to implement a hybrid of these two approaches. Some institutions, like Sierra College (a community college in northern California), have indicated that the online approach will continue through the fall. Other institutions, like the University of Ohio, have indicated that they plan to reopen their campuses for in-person instruction. Most institutions have not as yet made a final decision.

More COVID-19 coverage

From my perspective and from the perspective of our Presidents and leadership team, it is too early to make a firm decision since we have yet to see the remaining trajectory of the COVID-19 contagion. Because our decision will affect students’ health and lives, as well as the health and lives of all of us who serve them, we need to exercise great care and we need to base our final decision on what is best from a public health standpoint.

At the same time, we are greatly concerned about instructional quality, recognizing that the online format is very difficult, especially for the laboratory sciences, for the clinical requirements of the allied health fields, and for many career-technical fields. Simulations and videos, while very helpful, are no substitute for in-person instruction and in-person experiences, especially data gathering and experimentation. This is a dilemma that has not been solved and probably cannot be solved without some compromises.

While we hope to have a firm decision well before the start of the fall semester, let me share with you a summary of our current planning.

- We are preparing for a fall semester that can be either in-person or online, depending upon where the COVID-19 situation is at that time. At present, the “tilt” seems to be toward the online/distance education format, albeit with some hybrid variations if that is possible. Since the COVID-19 trajectory is projected to have a spike sometime in the fall semester, we will need to monitor this closely and heed the direction of health officials. We also need to realistically assess the impact of opening classes at the start of the semester only to switch them to an online format if there is a mid-semester resurgence of COVID-19.

- We are exploring the possibility of allowing some designated laboratory, clinical, and first-responder classes to meet on campus, either entirely or in a hybrid fashion, and certainly with the enactment of social-distancing requirements. This may well happen but only if approved by health officials. Many institutions are looking into this possibility due to the serious problems that have been encountered in the online/distance education format for science, allied health, and certain career-technical fields.  If this is not possible, a greater effort will be required to develop simulations and other substitute formats.

This is a frustrating situation for everyone, including for our students. The decisions we must make are difficult because there is no simple blueprint for how to adjust to this novel coronavirus and because the decisions have life-or-death implications. It is my hope that we will be able to make a well-informed, final decision about the fall semester no later than July 31.

As we move forward, I am grateful for your patience, as well as for your support and understanding, as we work through this COVID-19 journey together. Please see the article below.

Dr. Constance M. Carroll
Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District


Related Article: Anxiety builds as California colleges consider how and when to resume on-campus fall courses -

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