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Santa Rosa Junior College classes will be online-only in the fall

The junior college is the first local institution to go online only for the fall.|

Santa Rosa Junior College announced on Thursday, April 30, that it is extending remote instruction and student services through the end of the fall 2020 semester in response to the ongoing coronavirus crisis in Sonoma County.

College officials acknowledged that there may be some courses that require in-person instruction, such as those that require hands-on labs.

“Where possible, we will work alongside faculty and staff in these areas to offer in-person instruction utilizing SRJC's social distancing protocols,” said SRJC President Frank Chong in a statement. “While we anticipate remaining in a remote format for a while, we will be constantly assessing the latest protocols from the state and the county to determine when the non-instructional operations of the [campus can] resume in a limited or modified face-to-face format.”

Chong added that college officials are continuing to monitor the situation and will provide further updates as information becomes available.

Graduation will be held online in a live video stream on May 23 for the 2,000 students who are eligible for the spring commencement ceremony.

The same day that SRJC announced that fall courses would be taught remotely, one of the largest colleges in the country, Arizona State University, announced that it is planning to resume in-person classes for the fall semester on August 20. In a statement, ASU president Michael Crow stated: “Given that circumstances related to COVID-19 continue to evolve, ASU will implement whatever safety measures and health protocols are necessary to keep students and employees safe.”

This week, Texas Tech University officials announced plans to reopen its campus in the fall in a “phased return approach.” At least 17 campuses in North Carolina are also expected to reopen, according to a statement by state college system's Interim President Bill Roper.

SRJC is a two-year college with currently 23,800 full and part-time students enrolled.

Former Sonoma City Councilmember Gary Edwards posted a note on Thursday expressing his disappointment with the news.

“Education is already suffering,” he said. “Open the campus and keep teaching.”

SRJC biology professor Jennifer Palladini said that whether classes are held in person or remotely, the college's students are certainly learning. She has already worked long hours to move her lab- and field- based classes online and she spends hours each week interacting with her students remotely, in addition to the time spent modifying her curriculum.

"There is plenty of teaching happening right now at SRJC, as there will be this fall," she said. "I teach 100 students a week, with short transition times between classes, using shared dissecting equipment and microscopes in labs that seat only 24 students with no space to spread out. It would be impossible to ensure adequate protection of students, faculty, and staff under these conditions. Given the likelihood that classes would have been interrupted by the continuation of or a resurgence of COVID-19, I support the early decision to allow adequate time to prepare the best possible remote learning experience for our students. Having the next few months to plan is preferable to hoping for the best and then needing to move online at the last minute, which would assure a less-than ideal experience for my students."

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

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