After five weeks of the district closing its nine campuses, Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez wrote a letter explaining numerous coronavirus related matters.
By Gabriel Arizon, Editor-in-Chief
In a message for faculty and administrators, Los Angeles Community College District Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez provided an update on the current state of affairs and how COVID-19 has affected the nine colleges.
In his letter sent on April 28, the chancellor stated the district’s goal has been to prioritize the health and safety of its students and employees while maintaining the integrity of their learning and business environments. Through the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the district has taken steps and measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus by limiting the number of employees performing essential functions at the colleges, such as billing and custodial work. As of April 28, close to 95 percent of all classes in LACCD are online, as opposed to 18 percent at the end of March.
“We will remain committed in the days and months ahead to keeping our employees and students safe and informed,” Rodriguez said. “Our faculty and professional classified staff have proven that they have the grace and intelligence to do astounding things under extraordinary pressure.”
Rodriguez confirmed that 42 employees and students had self-reported testing positive for the coronavirus. Another 22 self-reported feeling symptoms, but were not tested, while 26 reported cases of possible exposure. Among the 42 testing positive for COVID-19, there is one fatality. According to Valley College President Barry Gribbons, there have been five cases of coronavirus in the Valley community: one faculty member and four students.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health website, there have been 24,215 confirmed cases and 1,172 deaths due to COVID-19 as of May 1. In Valley Glen, there have been 90 infections and one death.
Rodriguez also revealed that a Virtual Graduation Planning Committee was formed on April 1 with representatives from each college and the Educational Services Center (ESC), including student leaders from three LACCD colleges. The chancellor stated that a final proposal is expected by May 1 to plan and possibly organize a “virtual recognition” of the upcoming graduates. The district is also reaching out to students who petitioned to graduate through a survey issued the previous week.
“Preliminary responses indicate while there is some support for a virtual recognition,” Rodriguez said, “most wish to walk in a traditional commencement ceremony when health and safety restrictions allow.”
The chancellor continued by stating that all summer and fall courses will be moved to remote learning, and student support services and most of LACCD’s business operations will continue to operate online. The district is working with state agencies and faculty leaders to find potential solutions for classes that are “hard to convert,” such as laboratory and clinical classes that have hands-on requirements.
To date, approximately $15 million has been or is projected to be spent by LACCD to address COVID-19 matters, which Rodriguez called a “deleterious impact on our district’s ending balance reserve.” In addition, the district has raised $1.5 million since March 15 in support of students’ basic needs. The money was raised through several sources, including college and local foundations, which will address food insecurity, emergency aid and technology tools.
The nine colleges are also receiving federal funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Valley has already obtained about $3 million in aid, according to Gribbons, with another $3 million to come at a later date.
The EOC is currently working on an outline for a recovery plan for LACCD, which will detail when and how students and employees will be able to return to campus. The plan is expected to occur in phases over the course of weeks and months, guided by governmental and public health orders and guidelines on testing, congregations and social distancing.
For those feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, Rodriguez encourages contacting the LA County Department of Mental Health at (800) 854-7771 (available 24 hours a day) or visiting their website. Faculty and staff can use the Employee Assistance Program, which can be contacted at (800) 327-0449.
“These are troubling, unsettling times for all of us and it’s natural to be concerned or anxious,” Rodriguez wrote. “Nothing is more important than your physical and mental health — and that of your family or loved ones — and I urge everyone to please take of yourself and your families.”