Students and Colleagues:
Much discussion is taking place regarding the reopening of schools. While Saddleback made the decision many weeks ago to offer the vast majority of our instruction online, roughly 5% of our students and faculty were scheduled to return to campus to begin limited on-campus learning in labs during the week of August 17. Unfortunately, the regional data and trends do not support that start date, and the mathematical modeling indicates that we will not likely see a drop in new cases to a more containable level for at least 4-6 more weeks, and that assumes people start following public health advice by social distancing and wearing masks in public and when around non-members of their immediate households.
We will need a bit more time for the situation in our community to improve. Accordingly, our new tentative start date for on-ground labs will be September 14. All fall classes will begin as scheduled on August 17. Campus-based labs will also start on August 17 but will now be online until September 14. Students scheduled for on-campus labs will be receiving additional information.
I know that the later start for on-campus labs will disappoint some, but we will continue to make decisions based on science, public health information and data. Currently, the data for Orange County shows our new case rate at seven times the State threshold for moving forward with re-opening. Our positive test rate is over 12%, significantly above the State threshold of 8%. Mathematical modeling shows us stabilizing but not yet descending our curve substantially for 4-6 weeks. We will re-visit the data in another four weeks before bringing any students and faculty back on September 14th.
For those who are scheduled to return for on-campus labs or other hands-on activity this fall, you will be receiving information about screening requirements as well as measures we will be taking to protect your safety and that of your household members, including social distancing, face coverings, sanitization of learning spaces and controlled movement of traffic in all common spaces to facilitate social distancing. Some scheduled on-campus labs may be moved to larger spaces or outside. Please watch your email for location changes prior to September 14.
All student supports--and we continue to provide all of them--will remain online, better than ever, most with virtual walk-in or other real-time access. We continue to provide all student supports online so that we can minimize the number of people on campus, which keeps those who need to be on campus safer.
I will be hosting two virtual town hall meetings over the next week, one for students and one for employees. The student town hall will take place today at 3:30pm, and the employee town hall will take place on Monday, July 27th at 1pm. I look forward to seeing many of you then.
In the meantime, I reiterate my plea for all of us to avoid social contact with those outside of our households and to social distance and wear face coverings when such contact occurs and when in public spaces outside of our homes. These behaviors convey to each other what we long to say: That we still care for each other, including those who are more vulnerable than us; that we acknowledge that our success in beating Covid and restoring our economy depends upon all of us supporting each other in these and other ways; and that the sooner we all engage in such behaviors, the sooner we can get schools open and resume work and life with some semblance of similarity to what we knew pre-Covid.
I am privileged to be supporting all of you in this giant test of our ability to find and demonstrate our humanity and our empathy and love for one another. I’m glad you’re at Saddleback. Stay well.
Dr. Elliot Stern
President, Saddleback College