District officials announced tonight that the college will be moving in-person instruction online for over a month starting next week in an attempt to help mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The decision was made as schools across the state grappled with how to curb the rapid spread of coronavirus in the state, a disease with no known vaccine that is about 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu. There are six reported cases of COVID-19 in Orange County; none are community transmissions.
“They say that some situations are ‘fluid’ and this is a prime example of a fluid situation,” Vice President of Academic Affairs Jeff Lamb said in a virtual town hall with faculty and staff Thursday afternoon. “You think you’re in one spot one day and it completely changes the next.”
The unprecedented decision comes less than 24 hours after Orange Coast Community College District and L.A. Community College District made similar announcements. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new guidance in response to the spread of coronavirus Wednesday night urging for the cancellation of any setting where more than 250 people are present.
“While we understand there are concerns about COVID-19, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency, as of today March 12, 2020, the health risk to the general public in Orange County is believed to be low,” Rancho Santiago Community College District Chancellor Marvin Martinez said in an email announcing the plan to move courses online.
“At this time, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 at our colleges or the district office.”
Here’s what you need to know about the district’s announcement:
Plans are still being made on how best to accommodate students enrolled in career education programs such as the police academy, fire academy, nursing, child development and dual-enrollment.
Officials said they are not issuing refunds for parking permits or health fees.
The district hopes to resume full on-campus instruction April 24, however that may change as the situation evolves.
“Not that we’re not in the contemplation of doing that activity,” Lamb said during the Virtual Town Hall Thursday. “Steps have been taken to prepare us for that potential eventuality. But to close tomorrow? We’re not ready for that.”
Students who will still be on campus are strongly encouraged to practice social distancing, keeping a minimum of six feet of space between themselves and others. Other suggestions include frequent handwashing of at least 20 seconds, avoiding handshakes and coughing and sneezing into elbows or tissues to limit the spread of germs. Students feeling sick of experiencing flu-like symptoms is encouraged to stay at home.
A Santa Ana College student who recently returned from an impacted region of Italy did not come back to campus and is in voluntary self-isolation. She is in good health and attributes it to the fact that she was only in heavily affected northern Italy for a short period of time.
“I am doing the 14-day quarantine so haven’t been to school,” the student, who did not wish to be named, told el Don. “I’ve been emailing assignments and trying to handle everything virtually.”