California Community College Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley has issued executive orders that make significant changes to the student grading policies aimed at helping students who may be suffering while the college shut down continues.
Las Positas College president Dyrell Foster explained the reasoning behind these changes in policy.
“The purpose of these new grading policies is to support educational continuity in as many ways as possible for our students during the COVID-19 disruption,” Foster said.
For students worried about their grades, the alterations in policy may have an impact. Changes in the grading policy include allowing students to retake any course attempted during the pandemic, extending pass/no pass deadlines and allowing for easy withdrawal from courses.
“Our colleges are committed to helping our 2.1 million students get through this crisis, and these measures are designed to ensure students are not punished for events that are out of their control,” Chancellor Oakley said in a press release dated March 27.
College districts throughout the state have converted face-to-face courses to online instruction using applications such as ConferZoom, which allows communication between students and their professors. Las Positas College, like other colleges throughout the state, has also made the switch to this online instruction.
The deadline for selecting a pass/no pass option instead of a letter grade has also been extended. Students should be aware that the University of California and California State University systems still require courses for a major to be completed with a letter grade, and “no pass” grades will not be considered in probation and dismissal procedures, according to Oakley.
Students intending to complete a course under the current situation, rather than withdraw, will not be negatively affected should they be unable to successfully complete the course.
Local governing boards have also authorized an extension for their spring terms all the way through June 30 as needed, but May 22 is the last day of spring 2020 instruction. Most courses will be completed without an extension. Locally, students are adapting to the online instruction.
“Taking online classes isn’t ideal. Online classes are harder for me to manage. I need a physical setting. I’m taking a music class, and we can’t rehearse now due to the pandemic,” LPC student Tyler Griffeath said, explaining that the pandemic has made his ability to manage coursework more challenging.
In addition to the changes in grading policy, the Chancellor’s Office has issued a separate executive order to help aid students in the statewide response to COVID-19.
The order suspended state and local regulations, purchased a virtual lab platform, clarified how attendance will be reported and requested that the Board of Registered Nursing provide emergency exemptions.
The suspension of state and local regulations ensures students are not penalized academically and will easily be able to receive refunds for enrollment fees.
Students who withdraw because of the current crisis will receive an excused withdrawal on their transcripts, which will not count against academic progress requirements. Should a student decide to withdraw colleges must disregard the previous grade when computing a grade-point average once the course has been completed
The order also temporarily waives requirements for districts to obtain approval from the state Chancellor’s Office to refund enrollment fees to these students.
Additionally, the order declares the purchase of a virtual lab platform that will support a range of science-related disciplines. This is the first purchase to support a system-wide transition to virtual labs. All colleges will have access to the platform services, including expanded support and technical assistance for faculty.
The Board of Registered Nursing’s request for emergency exemptions would reduce the requirements of clinical hours for nursing students in direct patient care and allow for more simulated hours. This is needed because many health care facilities are excluding nursing students from clinical rotations due to safety concerns.
The state and county have also issued executive orders which provided an update to the shelter-in-place arrangement previously issued.
The order to shelter-in-place and work remotely has been extended to May 3, 2020. Meanwhile, for essential employees who are physically reporting to work, the new ruling now requires the employer to conduct a symptom check. Also, college will not resume this semester, and the LPC is planning a virtual summer and possibly a virtual fall as will many other colleges throughout the Bay Area.
At LPC, a symptom check log is distributed to administrators by the Human Resource staff. All essential employees must speak (no texts, emails or voicemails) to their immediate supervisor and answer simple questions before entering the workspace. These questions include asking if the employee has had shortness of breath, a fever or coughing.
This includes faculty reporting to campus to complete distance education elements. In addition to the symptoms check, the new order requires an additional “Social Distancing Protocol” document to be posted for any building that remains accessible. The district had previously posted guidelines for social distancing at all district facilities.
Maxwell Lander is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him at @maximuslander.