Bakersfield College discuss the process of returning to physical campus

Charr Davenport and Brisa Flores, Reporters

Bakersfield College’s President Sonya Christian held two virtual forum seminars to discuss the topic of reopening BC campuses for the upcoming summer and fall semesters and BC’s upcoming drive-thru vaccination sites on April 6 and April 8.

The President’s Virtual Seminars was hosted by Bakersfield College Director of Student Life Nicky Damania and featured President Christian as the main speaker.

In the first seminar BC faculty members of BC that are a part of the campus’s instructional workgroup at BC shared their thoughts on the campus reopening.

President Christian then introduced the panelists of the webinar; Rich McCrow BC’s Dean of Instruction; Joe Saldivar, the department chair of biology; Rony Recinos, an automotive technology professor; Jordan Rude, a professor of psychology; and Christie Howell, who is also a professor of psychology.

“It’s certainly exciting as we start trucking towards some changes again in our life, like coming back together,” said McCrow and shared details about the coming fall 2021 semester.

McCrow shared that just like the changes at BC at the beginning of the pandemic, such as management, it will continue to change to adjust to the “new normal.”

McCrow then went on and had a Q&A session with the rest of the panelists to share their reopening thoughts.

Recinos was asked to share his opinion on what the new normal would look like when faculty and students return to campus. Recinos said the engineering department had laid some expectations for students, such as requiring face masks, washing their hands, and scanning the BC pass app QR code.

“Don’t be scared of coming back. It’s fun,” added Recinos.

The next question was directed towards Howell. She was asked what are some ideas faculty would use to help ease the anxiety and fear students could have when returning to campus.

Howell said that talking to the students like regular people is essential for easing that anxiety to let them know that faculty is there for them.

Saldivar was asked what the difficulties students are that they face when it comes to communicating. “I can’t wait to go back to the classroom,” he shared.

Saldivar added that building relationships with students happens in their lab time in a science course. Not being able to do labs physically is like a “punch in the gut.”

Rude was asked how personal challenges would impact the capacity of empathizing with students.

Rude said that being transparent with his students was helpful and shared ideas on how he centered himself before he could center his students.

Rude added that he created a discussion post for his students to discuss a new hobby they picked up and share their progress with their classmates.

“Do something and have a plan for yourself and if it works, share it with your students,” shared Rude.

The webinar ended with McCrow telling the rest of the panelists to share their final expectations and thoughts on returning to campus.

The second seminar featured Interim Director of the Student Health and Wellness Center Cindy Collier, Director of Counseling and Student Success Marisa Marquez, nursing professor Lisa Harding, and nursing student Abigail Greenleaf-Poncho as guest speakers.

The virtual forum opened with a slide show presented by President Christian which detailed current COVID-19 statistics as well as future COVID-19 campus safety protocols. As of April 8, there have been 106,724 COVID-19 resident cases in Kern County, with 38,232 recoveries and 1,298 deaths. Kern County currently remains in the Red Tier, but is expected to be in the Orange Tier before June 15, according to an article by Ilyana Capellan written for KGET.

“Right now, 21 million Californians have had one or two doses of the Pfrizer or the Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson,” said President Christian. “In Kern County, we have over 300,000 individuals that had a dose, so the numbers are looking really promising.” President Christian’s vaccine information can be proven true by an interactive California COVID-19 vaccine tracker provided by ABC 7 News on their website.

President Christian also announced the arrival of 1,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines as well as a vaccine drive-thru held on April 10 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the Bakersfield College Panorama campus. Bakersfield College is also providing second doses of the Moderna vaccine at the Panorama campus on April 10, the Arvin campus on April 11, and the Delano campus on April 12.

Following the announcement of the vaccines and vaccine drive-thrus was the discussion of campus safety during the COVID-19 epidemic. “Above and beyond, our priority is the health and safety of our students and anyone that comes on campus,” said Damania. “It’s business unusual and we’re doing what we can to make sure it’s a proper and exciting time to come back to campus.”

Guest speaker Collier also had some positive words about the return to campus and Bakersfield College’s current COVID-19 safety protocols, which include social distancing and using a campus pass app that screens for COVID-19 symptoms. “I want to make sure that everybody understands that Bakersfield College has done an outstanding job with preventing the spread of COVID-19 on our campus,” she said. I am really, really proud to say that all the year that we have been on campus, we haven’t had one confirmed case of COVID-19 transmission, meaning our safety protocols have been working and will continue to work to keep everybody safe.”

Currently Bakersfield College has a four stage plan for the return to campus, with administration members returning to campus first on April 19, program directors and managers returning on May 3, classified staff members returning on May 17, and normal faculty returning on June 1. Students are expected to make a return to Bakersfield College on June 14.