Clark College to remain online for winter term

College will offer limited face-to-face labs

Clark College officials have announced that the college’s 2021 winter term will be taught online with limited face-to-face labs.

“I realize we just began fall term, but registration for winter term is quickly approaching,” said Clark College President Dr. Karin Edwards. “It is time to make the next decision in a series of difficult ones regarding how we will deliver education in such an unpredictable environment as this pandemic.”

Clark College will continue online learning during its winter term. The college has experienced a 10 percent decline in enrollment, but its Running Start program is doing well and the cyber security course added a second class. File photo
Clark College will continue online learning during its winter term. The college has experienced a 10 percent decline in enrollment, but its Running Start program is doing well and the cyber security course added a second class. File photo

Edwards indicated that Clark College officials have decided to extend remote teaching modalities through the end of the Winter 2021 term.   

Students will have three modality options as they make registration decisions for winter. Those options are classes completely online and asynchronous; remote classes that are a blend of live Zoom instruction combined with some synchronous instruction; and hybrid instruction that combines online instruction and lab components with face-to-face instruction. 

Strict safety protocols will be maintained for the face-to-face instruction and labs.

Clark College consulted with the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, public health authorities, other colleges, students, and faculty in making this decision.

Clark College President Dr. Karin Edwards
Clark College President Dr. Karin Edwards

“This is a difficult decision because we want to see our students back on campus,” said Edwards. “But we also want to safeguard our students’ health. By making early decisions, we can put into place plans to support students, continue to improve our online processes, and provide students with optimal instruction online.”

Clark College currently has 6,050 FTE (full-time equivalent) students,of which 1,837 are Running Start students, according to Kelly Love, chief communications officer for Clark College.  Enrollment is down approximately 10 percent from what school officials budgeted for this academic year (pre-COVID-19).

A 10 percent drop would amount to about a $2 million shortfall in the current budget year (July 2020–June 2021) said Love in an email response to Clark County Today. The college was down about 10 percent for spring quarter as well.

The college has access to CARES Act funding of about $2.6 million. However the funding cannot be used to backfill revenue deficits due to COVID-19, according to Love..The funds must be used to pay for items and programs that allow the college to adapt to online learning as a result of COVID-19. That includes new tools for teachers and students to be successful online, making improvements to the digital platform, or supplies to pay for safety checks and equipment.

Love believes the college has about $800,000 in requests for CARES Act funding.

There is some good news. Clark College’s cyber security program filled up this fall and they had to add a second class. 

Clark College officials report that 12 of the career technical education and allied health programs are hybrid with both online instruction and limited face-to-face labs:  Examples of their biggest programs are automotive, diesel, welding, machining, dental hygiene, nursing, culinary, and bakery.

The classes the college has been unable to offer because of COVID-19 are the continuing education (CE) classes and mature learning, according to Love. They have a small offering of 25 of those classes for fall quarter. 

Most of their CE instructors are also community members. “They have not been able to make the herculean shift to online learning.” said Love.. “It’s a heavy lift. That’s a loss of approximately 1,700 part-time students who would normally take one or two classes through continuing education.” 

Love believes that Portland Community College has not been able to restore it’s career technical education programs during COVID.  Clark College has been able to keep its labs open with strict protocol, limiting the number of students, social distancing, face coverings, and health screening checks. 

Last spring, the Board of Trustees requested an independent study of Clark College operations, seeking ways to achieve efficiencies in response to the pandemic and shutdown of in-person instruction. 

The consulting firm Moss Adams began its work in May, conducting interviews, and reviewing documents, reports, surveys, organizational charts, and other materials. They submitted their final report to President Edwards on Aug. 31. 

Departments are now reviewing the report and will provide feedback to Edwards and the Executive Council by Oct. 14. The Executive Council will review feedback at its Oct. 23 budget retreat and will post preliminary recommendations for college review after that retreat.

Clark College has reported three positive cases of COVID-19 since June. They are unrelated.

An employee on campus June 7 tested positive, according to Love. The employee recovered at home. There were no subsequent exposures on campus because the employee was outside, wearing a mask and keeping a healthy distance for the 45 minutes they were on campus that day.  

Last week, a student in the culinary department tested positive after being in class Sept. 23. The student is recovering at home. The health department interviewed the student and professor, deciding that other students were not exposed to COVID-19 because safety protocols were adhered to. 

Additionally last week, a foundation employee (off campus) tested positive after having been in the office. They are recovering at home and have no subsequent exposures.

The Clark College campus went remote in mid March. Approximately 30 employees are on campus at any given time. The majority are working remotely, teaching remotely and learning remotely.

“These are difficult decisions that impact our students and our faculty,” said Love. “We miss our students and want to bring them back to campus safely. As a large institution with more than 6,000 students and 1,000 employees, we are concerned about the impacts of exposure to our students and staff.”

Clark College officials made the decision this week to allow faculty the time they need to construct their winter classes online, using the tools they have been developing the past six months. The college is part of a state community college system. 

“Each college loads it’s courses into the system for the winter term starting today,” said Love, “so we can be ready for student registration starting in November.  Students need time also to decide how to work their schedules given the three options in this modality.”

“We look forward to the day when we can welcome everyone back on campus and celebrate your successes as a Clark College student and graduate,” said Edwards.

Winter term at Clark College begins Jan. 6, 2021.