College of the Canyons is working on a plan to return to campus with in-person labs in the second half of 2021.

The College of the canyons Valencia campus is closed amidst County restrictions.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of most U.S. schools in the spring, students and faculty were faced with a challenge on the new ways of learning and teaching. And now, 2021 approaches, much has been discussed about the return of in-person instruction.

A lot of what has transpired for College of the Canyons and other higher education institutions in LA County is based on orders from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health. All the decisions by community colleges, Cal States, the UCS, other both profit and nonprofit higher education institutions are bound by those requirements and decisions. 

Students walking to Canyons Hall Building. Photo courtesy College of the Canyons    

In late August, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” dictated when schools can fully open. Since then, COVID-19 cases in LA County have increased.

“So, if the LA Department of Public Health allows us to offer more classes, more programs to return, we will happily allow more students and faculty to come back to campus because we know that this what we’re doing now, remote distancing (education), is not the best for a lot of programs,” said COC paralegal studies professor Nicole Faudree. “It’s very stressful emotionally for both faculty and students.”

At the moment, all efforts directed towards the return of in-person instruction are about classes that contain labs and that fit specific requirements. Classes categorized as essential infrastructure sector disciplines are the possible disciplines that will have their lab portions face-to-face next year, starting in the fall semester. 

There were eight of them: Automotive technology, construction, culinary arts, nursing, EMT, MLT, land serving, and welding. These classes would have their students divided into groups and would come to campus  to then conduct the lab portions of their classes in a rotation.

Class participants perform tasks during a robotic welding class. Photo courtesy College of the Canyons

“Those classes that have the lab components, where the students needed to come to class that was categorized as essential infrastructure sector disciplines, where I had to actually reach out to the LA County Department of Public Health and based on the definition from the Department of Homeland Security of what constitutes essential infrastructure, I made a plea for the fact that those disciplines should be allowed on campus on a limited basis, meaning we had a social distance,” said the Vice President of Instruction Omar Torres. 

“I’m committed to trying to bring students back to campus as safe as possible, at the appropriate time, based on the County directors.”

There is also a possibility that when the essential infrastructure sector courses are already running, without causing more cases, there’s a chance COC might be able to start bringing back more programs if accompanied by extensive testing, good hygiene, and social distancing.

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