City College still waiting for health department guidance on fall return to classrooms

While K-12 public schools are committing to a regular semester of in-person learning in the fall, City College of San...

While K-12 public schools are committing to a regular semester of in-person learning in the fall, City College of San Francisco is less certain.

CCSF is planning to expand in-person instruction in the fall but is awaiting guidance on how much they can ultimately offer, staff told the Board of Trustees at a committee meeting on Thursday.

“As we know, the San Francisco health officials have been more cautious than state requirements,” said Tom Boegel, CCSF Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs. “We asked and asked and asked, but we don’t really have a roadmap from [Department of Public Health.] It’s challenging because how do you plan based on a hypothesis?”

The uncertainty comes despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement on Tuesday that California is expected to be ready for “business as usual” — but with masks still required — by June 15. The monumental announcement occurred at the vaccination site located on City College of San Francisco’s Ocean Avenue campus, but neither the trustees nor Interim Chancellor Rajen Vurdien was invited, Trustee Thea Selby noted with some annoyance.

“At this time, SFDPH cannot address fall reopening for SF State or other colleges and universities for Fall 2021,” said the Department of Public Health in a statement. “We will wait for the California Department of Public Health to update their guidance on Institutions of Higher Education before SFDPH can address Fall 2021 reopening.”

Other local educational institutions have indicated plans for normalcy without waiting for the guidelines. The California State University system, including its San Francisco campus, and the University of San Francisco expect to predominantly offer in-person lessons in the fall. The San Francisco Unified School District board on Tuesday committed to a full schedule of in-person learning for all students, should coronavirus transmission rates continue to decline.

More in-person instruction has been offered as restrictions have lifted, but it still accounts for just 4 percent of current course offerings at City College. In-person offerings for chemistry, biotechnology and art are also underway, while more for administration of justice, fire science, allied health, athletics and automotive construction are planned for the summer.

The main guidelines sought for the fall revolve around distancing guidelines, ventilation and required testing.

“Who will ultimately be accountable if our decision leads to an outbreak and loss of lives?” Vurdien said. “That’s where the difficulties lie.”

CCSF is also contending with class cuts and issued preliminary layoff notices to nearly 200 faculty members and administrators in March. The college faces a projected $33 million deficit for the upcoming academic year.

Selby requested that staff conduct a survey of students, past and present, to understand what they’re weighing before they may return to class in-person. Many may be out of the area or prioritizing work, she said.

“It just seems to me that a lot of things need to fall into place before we can say what happens in the fall,” Selby said. “It’s very upsetting to me that you are attempting to talk to the Department of Public Health and they’re not being responsive.”

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