Local colleges are stressing vaccination as the fall semester begins amid a wave of COVID-19 infections.
But each institution has its own unique plan to keep students safe.
Santa Barbara City College, whose board took a series of votes before signing a vaccination mandate Aug. 5, begins the new school year Monday.
A spokesperson for the school told the News-Press that the administration hopes “that students are able to get reacclimated to campus in this transitional semester and that health and safety protocols are effective in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”
About 30% of City College courses are in-person this fall.
Students, staff and visitors will fill out a survey on their smartphones (or on a sheet of paper) to ensure they are healthy upon check-in each school day and receive daily wristbands.
City College students who upload proof of full COVID-19 vaccination receive a $100 incentive.
To enter campus, City College staff and students must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. The school is accommodating those who have exemptions due to medical, disability or religious reasons.
Allan Hancock College, which began its semester Monday, is taking a similar approach to SBCC.
All students and staff must be vaccinated by Oct. 1, and administrators are going to detail exemptions in September.
“Hancock is carefully monitoring the ever-evolving situation with regards to the COVID-19 virus. The college continues to base its COVID-19 safety and health protocols and policies on the latest guidance from federal, state and county health officials,” Chris McGuinness, Hancock’s public affairs and communications analyst, told the News-Press Thursday.
In compliance with local guidelines, students and staff must wear masks inside. The school will be providing masks for those who forget.
Classrooms are equipped with air filters, and hand sanitizing stations are located throughout the campuses.
“After more than a year-and-a-half of remote learning, our students are excited to return to campus for in-person classes,” Mr. McGuiness said. “Our administration, staff and faculty worked tirelessly to ensure that our students return to a campus that promotes learning while also ensuring a safe and healthy environment.”
A combined total of just over 9,000 credit and non-credit students are enrolled in fall classes at Allan Hancock, which has its main campus in Santa Maria. About 25% of classes are online.
Westmont College starts its semester Aug. 30 with 1,250 students both on and off campus.
The Montecito college is accommodating a few students who are unable to return to in-person and are continuing their coursework online.
“We are planning for traditional in-person learning and will accommodate remote instruction should we be required to do so if COVID-19 cases rise in our county. Otherwise, we plan to put Zoom on the backshelf as much as possible,” said Irene Neller, the vice president for enrollment, marketing and communications. “We are glad to know, after the success of remaining open all last year, that we can shift to it if we need to for a temporary moment.”
While vaccination is not required, those who are not inoculated will receive regular testing for the virus. Competing student-athletes must be vaccinated.
Initial surveys from the college show that over 80% of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated.
Students and staff will electronically report symptoms, or lack thereof, daily. The system will anonymously notify departments of potential cases.
Large classes are able to move outside under tents, and Westmont is planning community gatherings under health and safety guidelines.
Ms. Neller is excited about the Westmont Class of 2025, which has an average 3.99 GPA.
Almost 40% of incoming students are Hispanic, Asian American, black, Hawaiian Pacific Islander, Native American and/or multiracial.
UCSB will launch into the new semester Sept. 23. It is planning on “primarily in-person instruction,” UCSB Deputy News Director Shelly Leachman told the News-Press.
The UC system was one of the first to require vaccination.
UCSB administrators meet with county health officials and faculty leadership and monitor changes in guidelines.
The incoming Gauchos are described by the admissions office as “resilient and creative.”
“They transitioned to online learning, found creative ways to continue with their extracurricular activities, and often served in expanded roles in their households, handling needs and tasks such as grocery shopping, errands and more, so that more at-risk family members didn’t have to risk exposure,” Ms. Leachman said. “Admissions staff also saw higher levels of anxiety and stress disorders being reported among incoming students, which is not unexpected given the pandemic.”
Westmont and UCSB provide COVID-19 data dashboards so families can see the status of the virus on campus. Westmont’s dashboard is online at westmont.edu/covid-19, and UCSB’s data is available at ucsb.edu/COVID-19-information/dashboard.