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Some BC instructors will begin semester online due to rise of COVID-19 cases

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The Bakersfield College campus on Panorama Drive is shown in a file photo.

Next week, some Bakersfield College instructors will teach their face-to-face courses in a remote format for the first two weeks of the spring semester, due to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Kern County.

The number of students enrolled for in-person instruction is slightly under 5,000, but college officials did not say Thursday how many professors have opted to begin courses that were originally set for in-person instruction in an online or hybrid format.

College spokeswoman Norma Rojas said faculty have been working with deans and department chairs, and then notifying students once the decision is made. 

The college's spring semester officially begins Saturday, and 40 percent of BC's courses are being offered in-person, according to Rojas.

"The college continues to be open for business, and we are expecting students and classes to be on campus next week," Billie Jo Rice, vice president of instruction, said in a statement. 

John Harte, who teaches a hybrid multimedia reporting course in the journalism department, is a BC professor who decided that starting the semester using an online format was the best decision. He noted that many other campuses, including many UC institutions, also made the decision to delay in-person instruction. 

"I think it’s safe, I think it’s smart, given the omicron variant and, hopefully, it’s for a short period of time," he said.

Harte, an adjunct professor, received an email Tuesday from the Academic Technology and Professional Development Department, which gave the option of starting his face-to-face course online. He praised BC for giving professors the option. He plans to begin the semester with the history of his subject, which can be taught more easily online. His hope is that case rates will subside soon so he can more easily teach hands-on work, such as handling cameras and editing software, in person, which is his preference.

"I’m ready to go back," he said. "I want it to be as safe as possible."

Students are also demanding more courses online. It's typical for the college to shift course offerings to meet demand as the beginning of the semester approaches, according to Rice. Over the last few weeks, several courses switched formats to respond to student demand for additional online sections. Currently, 66 percent of student enrollment is online, 27 percent is face-to-face and 7 percent is hybrid, Rojas said. Of the 2,500 courses being offered for the upcoming semester so far: 50 percent of courses are online, 40 percent are in person and 10 percent are hybrid.

Student services will remain open on campus, though the number of staff are limited, according to Rojas. Protocols are in place in case those services need to shift to being online only.

The Kern Community College District requires proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or an exemption for its students and staff, and it also encourages a daily health check for symptoms using the KCCD self-check tool.

Porterville College, which is a part of the KCCD, announced Wednesday that the majority of its classes would be delivered online for the first two weeks of the semester, due to the rise in COVID cases in Kern and Tulare counties. 

In Kern County, there were 1,863 new COVID-19 cases reported Thursday, which represents a single-day record for the area.

You can reach Emma Gallegos at 661-395-7394.