Classes will resume in an online format March 30 until at least the end of April across the Dallas County Community College District after an extended spring break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chancellor Joe May said in a districtwide email.
This decision comes amid K-12 schools, college and university closures across the country.
“Some of you may have been wondering why we didn’t move more quickly in deciding to close our campuses like other institutions across the country. Such a consideration is not one to take lightly,” May said. “For other colleges and universities, closing and moving classes to an online model may be a relatively simple measure to take for them and their students. However, we have a unique set of circumstances, which made this a much more challenging predicament.”
Abdul Malik, a Brookhaven College student, said he is not a fan of online courses, but he understands the precaution.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Malik said.
May said not all of the 80,000 students enrolled in DCCCD have laptops or computers and many rely on campus-based internet connectivity to complete their assignments. The district is currently assessing options for students who rely on campus technology.
Additionally, May said, “There are some courses that are not conducive to being taught in an online environment, and we are reviewing our options for those students as well.”
In a phone interview after an emergency deans’ meeting at Brookhaven, Octavio Gutierrez, chair of the school’s music department, said they are still trying to figure out how to move forward with online classes.
“We cannot just say, ‘OK, here’s the assignment, write it down and send it to me,’” Gutierrez said. “It’s not that easy.”
Gutierrez said the ensembles will have a particularly hard time if they cannot meet in person, and other departments are in the same situation.
“There are some things that translate well to an online environment, some things less well, and some things horribly,” Darise Error, chair of the theater department, said in an email to The Courier. “Acting is one that would be terrible online.”
She said the whole idea of theater is having a shared experience between actors and audiences.
She said: “It is about communicating, listening and communing. That said, in an emergency or crisis, you do what you have to do and better some kind of art, than none. So we will endure, as actors and storytellers have for millennia.”
Just a couple of weeks before DCCCD students, staff and faculty left for spring break, there were no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Dallas County. Since then, the virus has reached pandemic status, and a state of emergency has been declared in Dallas, throughout Texas and across the country.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state has climbed to over 160 as of March 19, according to The Texas Tribune.
There are 55 confirmed cases of the virus in Dallas County as of March 19, but so far no DCCCD students, staff or faculty have contracted COVID-19, according to the district website.
“We are working with faculty members and instructors at each college to ensure they have the materials needed for this transition to be successful and to ensure that there is minimal disruption to you and your coursework,” May said. “Because every decision we make has a far-reaching impact on you, our student, we will take steps to minimize your health risk while still maximizing your opportunity to complete a credential.”