Special to The Dallas Examiner
The Dallas County Community College District, in consultation with its board of trustees, has decided to extend remote online learning for most classes through the fall in order to protect students, faculty and staff from COVID-19.
After making a successful transition to online learning in March at the outset of the pandemic, the district has decided that the most prudent path forward is to continue delivering instruction primarily by virtual means, until the threat of contracting COVID-19 from community spread is lessened, district officials said.
“To provide a safe instructional environment in the midst of COVID-19, we would have to individually screen approximately 40,000 students and employees who normally enter our campuses each day. It is simply not feasible to accommodate the volume of daily temperature taking and health monitoring required for the safety of our community,” said Dr. Joe May, DCCCD chancellor.
Whereas some higher education institutions in the region have elected to open their campuses to in-person classes this fall, DCCCD does not have the physical space to meet the social distancing requirements for the size of its student population. For context, a total of 160,000 students attend DCCCD colleges.
“Our students, employees and communities have put their trust in us to look after their safety and well-being, and we will take a conservative approach to ensure that their trust is honored,” May said. “Given the uncertainties around the virus and how easily it can continue to spread, especially if we a see a resurgence in the fall as some are predicting, the board agreed that we should extend this period of online learning.
“DCCCD has a 50-plus year history of serving students while educating and enriching Dallas County, and that dedication has not changed. We will work to ensure we balance the instructional needs of our students with the realities of the current pandemic, which call for online learning to be an integral part of their education during this time.”
DCCCD has a large number of Career and Technical Education courses that require face-to-face instruction, such as welding, nursing and automotive tech, and the district is placing a priority on allowing these programs to return to an on-campus environment that adheres to CDC guidelines. Alternatives could include a mix of virtual and in-person classes to help students in these programs complete their job preparation courses and earn credentials.
As trends around the pandemic continue to evolve in Dallas County, the district expects to continue investing in its online learning portfolio with the expectation that the number of fully online degrees and certificates will continue to grow, even as the pandemic lifts and social distancing is no longer practiced.
The district also has deep partnerships with school districts across the county to provide instruction for P-TECHs, dual-credit courses and Early College High Schools. Should those school districts resume in-person operations for the fall, the district will work closely with them to develop safety protocols to continue delivering in-person courses to those students.
DCCCD is also making plans to open some libraries and computer labs this fall on a limited basis to help students who may not have access to computers or the internet.
“As always, we endeavor to ensure that all of our students have the support they need to complete their education journey, including those with disabilities and special needs,” May said. “During this extraordinary time of COVID-19, our students’ educations would not be possible without the dedication and support of our faculty and staff, who are working tirelessly to deliver learning and services virtually. They will continue to operate primarily online in the fall, at which point the district will re-evaluate and make plans to re-open in-person classes in the spring if circumstances allow.”