Virtual Instruction in Fall 2020 Was The Right Thing to Do


Kathryn Trefez

Skyline College at the beginning of the Spring 2020 semester. The campus transition to an online format has left the campus closed and mostly empty.

As the Spring 2020 term ends at Skyline College, many students and concerned community members were left wondering  What is going to happen in the Fall?

Chancellor Michael Claire finally announced that the Fall 2020 term would be mostly online, with a few exceptions that will be determined at a later date. This was the right thing to do, for students, faculty, and San Mateo County as a whole. 

“Several of you as well as our Academic Senate, Classified Senate, and student leaders have also requested that whatever the decision is, that we need to make it now so that people have time to prepare,” Chancellor Claire wrote in an official statement. 

“I have stopped saying ‘this is the new normal’ because this ‘normal’ is not normal that any of us want. I am finding it very difficult to accept this ‘normal’ and I know that you are too. This ‘new normal’ has created anxiety, stress, and additional work for us and our students.”

As of May 15, 2020, there are 1,536 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Mateo County and 65 deaths attributable to it.

Health officer for San Mateo County Scott Morrow has been helping the county to make decisions regarding the control of COVID-19. Starting May 18, San Mateo County will move on to phase 2 of the shelter-in-place plans. 

One of the reasons for making the fall semester primarily online is that it is going to help protect students and faculty from exposure to COVID-19.

It seems like every day, new information comes to light about new ways the virus infects the body, sometimes leaving some of the infected population asymptomatic. 

Asymptomatic people are more likely to transmit the virus and put other people at risk because one who doesn’t know they are infected won’t feel like it is as important to stay home. In a congested campus environment, the worst outcome would be to put students and faculty at risk of becoming infected. 

In efforts to help students make decisions for their fall semesters, it is helpful to get a clearer picture of what is to be expected. Students should never be left to wonder what their academic future holds, especially when it is such a big investment. For some, academic instruction at junior colleges like Skyline is more of an investment than it is for other students.

As of the fall 2019 semester, there were a total of 364 international students at Skyline College. The changes to the fall 2020 semester could affect them the most. Costs of living are high, and many people have been left unemployed as a result of the pandemic’s impact. 

Because there is fear that what happened in New York City could happen in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has made it a mission to protect California from the virus spreading through the community by extending stay-at-home orders. For now, it seems that practicing social distancing and staying at home is the most effective way of protecting everybody.

For protecting students, their needs, and the SMCCCD community at large, the virtual instruction that is going to continue into the summer and fall 2020 semesters seems to be the right step to take in being responsible during the pandemic.