By Dr. Paul Parnell, Chancellor, State Center Community College District
FRESNO — We at State Center Community College District (SCCCD) would like to thank our first responders, health care and other essential employees who are reporting to work during the pandemic. You are all heroes.
SCCCD (Fresno City College, Reedley College, Clovis Community College, Madera Community College Center and Oakhurst Community College Center) felt the need to do its part to minimize the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
On Friday, March 13, with one COVID-19 case in Madera County and one in Fresno County, our board held an emergency meeting announcing that the District would be converting to online classes. Two days later, the District issued a notice for employees 65 or older or those with health issues, to work from home. On Monday, March 16, our colleges began the process of transitioning to online classes and working remotely. This decision meant that 68,000 students and 3,000 instructors and staff would be staying home to reduce the rate of infection.
This has been a challenging time for both our students and staff. I want to thank our students for their perseverance and flexibility, and our staff for their tremendous effort to quickly transition to a fully remote operation. I’d also like to recognize the essential SCCCD staff who work to keep us safe, our technology running, our buildings clean and our staff paid.
Our dedicated faculty and staff are keeping students on track with their educational goals while keeping them safe. Students were provided laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots and access to technology, in order to finish the semester. Students without internet, accessed campus wi-fi from their cars in our parking lots, thus increasing connectivity capabilities while maintaining social distancing.
Our student services also stepped up to help during this transition. Students still have access to our food pantries, counseling services, veterans services, admissions and records, financial aid, etc. However, our assistance goes further than our campus walls.
SCCCD quickly responded to our community needs as well. Our colleges together have helped our local hospitals, especially when supplies were nowhere to be found. In addition to cleaning supplies, various departments answered the call for help including auto, engineering, theatre, fire academy, welding, physics, math, science, computer aided manufacturing, and allied health. I’m happy to report that because of caring instructors, deans, vice presidents and presidents, we were able to provide our local hospitals with gloves, masks, bouffant caps, face shields, ventilators, gowns, goggles, shoe covers, and safety glasses. In fact, our 3-D printers continue to stay busy making masks for our health care workers.
Fresno City College nursing, respiratory and first responder students can now be found on the front lines. Madera LVN students are also assisting. Actually, California community colleges train 80 percent of fire, police and EMT’s as well as 70 percent of nurses.
Reedley College has continued training essential wildland fire fighters, pilots and aviation maintenance employees.
Madera and Oakhurst Community College Center veterans are assisting with the state’s food distribution. Students at all campuses are assisting locally with food distribution.
In addition, our Valley Community Small Business Development Center, located at Clovis Community College, has helped hundreds of local businesses apply for COVID-19 emergency financial assistance, develop business strategies and provided much needed tech support.
SCCCD is on a shelter-in-place status through May 31, 2020. All of our events have been cancelled or postponed including commencement. Our summer classes will also be offered online. Our board meetings will continue the first Tuesday of each month at 4:30 p.m. via Zoom and are accessible to the public.
We understand how disruptive the COVID-19 pandemic has been in the lives of many of our students and families. We are focused on helping provide the support and resources they need to succeed. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that the State Center Community College Foundation has created the COVID-19 Emergency Aid for Students fund https://www.scccd.edu/.
This fund provides relief for SCCCD students facing a financial crisis, including food or housing insecurity, technology needs or other unexpected financial emergencies resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency relief funds are vital to the safety and well-being of students in need during this unprecedented time. The strength of our community rests in the ways we care for each other and our ability to grow stronger through adversity.
Once the crisis passes, we look forward to again being able to celebrate in person the successes of our students, as well as, to thank our donors and friends for their support.
I hope that you are doing well and staying safe.