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Santa Monica College announced on Monday night that it has made the decision to remain online through June 2021, with the exception of select lab classes deemed essential by the California Governor’s office. While classrooms will stay closed, the college continues to support students and the community through Chromebook lending, telehealth services, COVID-19 testing, and free meal drives.

“The SMC Emergency Operations Team is constantly monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic and trends/news, as well as keeping tabs on guidelines for higher education institutions from LA County Public Health and the CDC. It is unlikely that a safe, widely available vaccine will be available to allow for a return to on-ground classes this academic year. The college weighed all the information and facts available to make the decision at this time,” said Grace Smith, SMC Public Information Officer. 

While it is unclear exactly when a vaccine will make a campus return safe for all students, SMC decided to make this decision now to give students and staff ample time to prepare for the upcoming semesters. Students will begin registration in October for the Winter Intersession and Spring terms that will offer over 700 and 2,800 online courses respectively. 

“So far the student response has been generally positive. While most students share the same sentiment of disappointment of being ‘bummed’, they also recognize the diligence that went into making this decision and appreciate the care the college is showing for its students,” said student Board of Trustees member, Joshua Elizondo. “As a community, we are in this together; and as a student population, whether in-person or remote, we are always #proudtobeSMC.”

SMC’s enrollment is down by 5 percent compared to last fall, which indicates it is faring better than many of its sister colleges that have experienced double-digit declines in enrollment. Residential enrollment has increased slightly, suggesting that some students are selecting to enroll in online classes at SMC over online classes at a more expensive four-year university.

“I think different students and different faculty have different responses to being online. For some students, it is a huge advantage and they are taking classes remotely and asynchronously that they would have been unable to take on the ground at a given time. Other students are really missing the human interaction and the beautiful environment. The same is true for our faculty,” said Louise Jaffe, a Board of Trustees member. 

During these challenging times, SMC has doubled down on the support and services it provides to the community. SMC’s Airport Arts Campus has been transformed into a COVID-19 testing center that has completed over 10,000 tests since opening in late March. The College has also loaned free Chromebooks to its students and launched a robust food security program including a weekly drive-thru pantry and a free home food delivery service.

“We have increased access to online and virtual counseling services and made sure the campus life such as clubs, workshops and events can all be accessed in a virtual space,” said Elizondo. “As a student, while nothing can take the place of the in-person experience, the virtual isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be and I appreciate the efforts the college is making to create a holistic experience.”

The online format this fall has made SMC’s fall offerings even more accessible and flexible than in the past. SMC offers 75 degree and certificate options, including 40 noncredit career development and college prep classes. It has been the top transfer college to the University of California system for 29 years. 

“Our faculty have done an extraordinary job of making all coursework available remotely, turning on a dime, and the college has made and is making huge efforts to provide appropriate professional development and tech tools to all faculty and counselors,” said Jaffe. “These herculean efforts are very successful and commendable.”

Clara@smdp.com