Published on 7/27/2021.
I want to begin on a positive note and say that the College of the Redwoods’ faculty, staff, and administration are all looking forward to the Fall Semester and to having students back on campus. Fall is usually an exciting time, bustling with activity as students and faculty arrive, enthusiastic to teach and to learn.
To make it easier for students who could not continue with classes during the pandemic, students can qualify for debt forgiveness if they have debt of $100 or more for the 2020 Spring, 2020 Summer, 2020 Fall, and Spring 2021 terms and are unable to pay the outstanding balance for reasons related to COVID-19. We are hoping that this debt forgiveness program will allow students to continue their educational journey with us; however, they are not required to re-enroll to qualify. We are also offering several different modalities to accommodate everyone’s learning style and schedule.
However, given the recent spike in COVID cases in our community and our comparatively low vaccination rate, I feel we need to open up for a new fall semester in a way that reflects our commitment to keeping students and the community safe while continuing to deliver high-quality education in ways that meet students’ needs.
The guidance from the Public Health Department is fluid and it is hard to know what the recommendations will be on August 21st when classes resume; but as of today, we will be requiring all unvaccinated students, employees, visitors, and contractors to wear face-coverings in all classrooms and to enter any academic, administrative, residential, food service, or recreational building. Additionally, per Health Department guidance, we are recommending that even vaccinated individuals wear face-coverings indoors.
A fully vaccinated person is defined as someone who received, at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. In keeping with the guidance from Governor Newsom, College of the Redwoods will require all unvaccinated employees to provide proof of vaccination or submit to testing once a week for COVID-19.
All traditional face-to-face classes will be off-limits to unvaccinated students who refuse to wear a face-covering. Students who refuse to wear a face-covering may only participate in remote learning and online classes. However, students will be able to seek an accommodation if they are not able to wear a face-covering due to a documented disability or medical reason.
As the Delta variant surges in our communities, I would like to take a moment here to, again, in very strong terms, urge anyone who is not vaccinated to get vaccinated today. The data is clear. Nationally, 98% of Americans who are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Locally, our positivity rate is the highest it has been in 12 months. If we do not get the virus under control, it will kill many more people in our community. The very best way to protect yourselves and the ones you love is to get vaccinated and to urge others to do so as well.
If and when the FDA moves the COVID-19 vaccine from emergency to full approval status, I will also strongly consider requiring all students and staff who will be on campus in the fall to get vaccinated.
Although we are resuming normal operations in the fall, we are mindful that we must remain vigilant and be prepared in case the COVID trends and indicators worsen. The work that our faculty and staff accomplished at the outset of the pandemic will help College of the Redwoods pivot to predominately remote learning and services in the event that we experience another disruption to our in-person operations.
Our ability to keep the COVID-19 virus at bay, avoid another costly economic shutdown, prevent further loss of life, and provide unfettered access to our academic curriculum and student services moving forward is dependent on how many people in our county are vaccinated. I know that this has been a difficult year and that many people are still uncertain about the vaccination process, but they will prevent us from slipping backwards and repeating the turmoil of the last 18 months. I remain committed to the idea that being vaccinated represents our best opportunity to maintain normalcy, keep our families and communities safe, and end the COVID-19 pandemic.