Foothill College plans to expand its slate of in-person classes for the fall quarter, offering roughly 70% of the number of face-to-face courses available before the pandemic.
More than 400 class sections are expected to be offered on campus, with registration opening July 12 and classes starting Sept. 20. Despite the expanded on-campus offerings for the fall quarter, some courses will only be available online.
The plans still mark a substantial step in reopening the community college, which has operated largely online since the pandemic hit last year. Limited courses have been held in person up until this point, including Allied Health programs such as respiratory therapy and dental hygiene.
According to Foothill spokesperson Simon Pennington, those programs have run effectively, and he believes the broader reopening will be a success.
“I personally am very optimistic that we can do this well,” he said. “We’re being cautious; we’re being prudent.”
On-campus resources including the library, health services, tutoring centers and food services will reopen in the fall. Community education classes are also set to return.
Some classes will still only be run online in the fall, though Pennington said the college is “doing what we can” to get more in-person courses back. There will be a “solid mix” of classes available on campus, he said, adding that Foothill is offering a broader in-person schedule of classes than most local community colleges.
If all goes according to plan, the college intends to be back to its regular face-to-face offerings for the winter quarter, according to Pennington.
Even before the pandemic, Foothill already offered many online courses. This fall, about 44% of courses will be face-to-face, compared with 58% before the pandemic, Pennington said. College staff are looking to find more faculty to teach on campus.
Beyond staffing, Pennington added that most students who answered a survey indicated they want to stay online. Of the 1,435 students who responded to an online survey the college conducted May 17 to June 1, 51% said they want to remain totally online in the fall, with another 36% stating that they want both on-campus and online options. Just 12% responded that they want to be fully on campus.
“It’s not prudent to schedule 100% of our former classes back when our students (who) we’ve surveyed, they don’t want it,” Pennington said. “We have a limited budget, so we’ve got to serve our students and offer them the flexibility that they want.”
The college is also being cautious about health conditions, with more contagious COVID-19 variants spreading, Pennington said. Social-distancing guidelines are still in place, and Foothill is using contact-tracing apps for students and staff on campus.
“We’re being very careful and that is because, obviously, we don’t want to put our return at risk,” he said.
The Foothill-De Anza district’s board of trustees also voted unanimously last month to support creating a policy mandating students and staff get vaccinated before coming back to campus. The board is expected to review the policy at a meeting July 12.
The vaccine mandate would only take effect once both fall quarter has begun and at least one COVID-19 vaccine receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Students and staff could seek religious or medical exemptions.
Foothill has been holding free vaccine clinics on campus and has another one scheduled July 11. For more information, visit foothill.edu/healthservices.