The Del Mar College Board of Regents turned to teleconferencing to discuss the status of the college and approval of two tax bonds on April 14.
Del Mar College President Mark Escamilla said he wanted to thank all the employees, regents and students for what they’re all going through while this unprecedented situation is overtaking the entire world.
“Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Del Mar College has taken unprecedented steps to include the safety of our students and employees, and their families,” Escamilla said. “We began watching the situation closely in early February. During spring break, discussions among our leadership resulted in the extension of the break, which we announced on March 12. We made tough, but necessary decisions that have led us to where we are today.”
Escamilla said the foremost concern in all decisions has been the safety of everyone at Del Mar, which will not change.
“Circumstances have required us to shift in the way we deliver instruction, at least temporarily, as we stay true to our mission,” Escamilla said. “We have transitioned thousands of spring and summer courses to an online format. These include both credit and continuing education courses.”
Transitions to the courses got underway on March 30.
“In some courses, only lectures were transitioned, while lab and clinical portions were adjusted with special accommodations,” Escamilla said. “All our course schedules for every semester have been impacted, including redesigning the sequences of courses and modality. Our faculty has worked relentlessly to revise the curriculum and programs to meet these changes. It has been a herculean task.”
Escamilla said they are in the process of identifying more courses that can be transitioned to online to maximize opportunities for students.
The spring 2020 commencement ceremony, previously scheduled for May 15, has been postponed, according to Escamilla.
“We are working on a rescheduled virtual commencement and will share details as soon as they are available,” Escamilla said. “There will also be considerations for a makeup face-to-face graduation that we are also working on.”
Escamilla also said the IT Viking Help Desk, between March 15-31, handled 1,634 phone calls, responded to 1,652 emails, loaned out more than 140 laptops to students and procured almost $160,000 in hardware and software to keep students connected to their classes and the college.
“The Del Mar College Foundation has identified $225,000 in emergency assistance funds to mitigate the COVID-19 impact on student,” Escamilla said. “Additionally, we have extended tuition payment deadlines to help the financial strain many of our students are experiencing due to COVID-19.”
Although access to Del Mar campuses is restricted, the Physical Facilities staff are focused on ensuring the facilities are properly cleaned, sanitized and maintained, Escamilla said.
“Decontamination efforts started during spring break and are scheduled to continue regularly as long as needed,” Escamilla said. “This includes cleaning and disinfecting classrooms, offices, restrooms, hallways and all touch points.”
Escamilla said construction of the Southside campus and the pilot plant expansion on the West Campus are continuing on, or ahead, of schedule.
He added that college officials hope this is a temporary shift, but online learning is the primary method that must be embraced for the time being.
“In the coming weeks and months, we will precede with online and hybrid courses as we migrate back to our traditional face-to-face classes, depending on the evolution of this situation,” Escamilla said. “More adjustments are ahead, so we must remain flexible and keep our options wide open. Our top priority will always be the health and safety our employees, our students and our community.”
Regent Gabriel Rivas III asked Escamilla how classes such as welding and cosmetology are dealing without face-to-face classes.
Escamilla said they are putting every bit of those courses they can online.
“Every one of our courses essentially have a large lecture component,” Escamilla said. “So as much as we possibly can is being converted to online. What we want to do is remind all of our students that we will work with them in order to complete their goals this semester.”
Regent Elva Estrada asked Escamilla about if any students have dropped their classes.
“The short answer is yes,” Escamilla said. “We have the vast majority of our students onboard. We are triaging any prospective students who are thinking about dropping their courses on an individualized basis. Those students will receive phone calls from our advisers and counselors.”
The biggest number that Escamilla heard, about a week ago, of students considering dropping was around the range of 50.
“I believe that number probably has grown,” Escamilla said. “I don’t think it’s grown considerably more than that, but we do know that these are the tougher times as we know the students are experiencing more difficulty with employment and all these other things.”
Escamilla said he wants to make sure any students who consider dropping have individualized attention so he can specifically assess their situation before they drop.
“A lot of times our students are struggling over issues to make these calls personally, and sometimes it just takes us putting a hand on their shoulder, so to speak,” Escamilla said. “We’re doing everything we can to minimize the students who are considering dropping.”
Along with his update on the college, Escamilla proposed the issuance of Series 2020A and Series 2020B Del Mar College District Limited Tax Bonds for the purpose of financing portions of the capital improvements approved by the voters on Nov. 4, 2014, and Nov. 8, 2016, respectively.
Escamilla asked for over $25 million from Series 2020A and over $67 million from Series 2020B, which both were approved unanimously.
The next regents meeting is set for May, but due to current circumstances, the board is unsure as to whether they will meet face-to-face or continue with a teleconference.