Chancellor Judy C. Miner sent the following message via email to Foothill-De Anza district employees.
March 9, 2020
A great deal of work has taken place at the district and college levels to prepare for a variety of scenarios that could possibly challenge the continuity of instruction and services resulting from the spread of COVID-19 (novel cornonavirus).
I know some of you are wondering how to respond to questions from students, members of the public or colleagues when there is so much uncertainty about what will happen next. I hope this email will address some of your most pressing concerns, both immediate and for the longer term. Here in a nutshell is what we can say at this point:
For now, the district and colleges remain open, but that may change. We are following the guidance of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, whose recommendations we monitor throughout the day. We have taken additional action to sanitize high traffic areas and encourage flexibility in accommodating the needs of employees and students, particularly those in higher risk categories. Our top priorities are the safety of our community and continuing service and support for our students and employees. Please follow all the recommended preventive measures to protect yourself and others. The district and the colleges will keep you informed about any changes in plans related to district and/or college operations.
The district Office of Human Resources is preparing detailed guidance that covers a wide variety of employee situations and needs. This will be distributed within the next day. A web page for posting district COVID-19 updates and information will be activated later today and can be accessed from the district homepage at www.fhda.edu.
Questions relating to students should be directed to the colleges.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
Last week, I convened groups from the colleges and Central Services to identify potential implications of COVID-19 on our operations, and we discussed the following issues:
- Ensuring that payroll processing can continue uninterrupted.
- Adding resources to increase the frequency and ongoing sanitization of high-traffic surfaces and areas on the campuses, including dining facilities, door handles, athletic and rental facilities, classrooms, and labs.
- Identifying essential personnel in the event of a shutdown.
- Finding clinical training alternatives for nursing and allied health students displaced from hospitals.
- Communicating with educational partners who deliver our courses on their campus.
- Allowing flexibility on travel reimbursement when conferences are cancelled.
- Addressing the full spectrum of student needs and concerns, including those of our most vulnerable student populations.
- Planning for multiple alternate methods of delivering instruction electronically in the event of closures and offering training for faculty, students, and staff in their use.
- Addressing attendance accounting and contractual issues that may arise.
- Identifying communication channels that can be used to maintain a sense of community cohesiveness.
- Reinforcing the importance of combatting discrimination.
Preparing for Closure and Interruptions
At my request, Vice Chancellor Dorene Novotny initiated a process for identifying critical issues and options for ensuring educational continuity for our students should closures become necessary. Campus representatives worked together at meetings last Thursday and Friday to develop a planning blueprint for addressing such issues as how to keep delivering course content, assignment and exams; determining grades; communicating with students; managing instances of student illness, quarantines and absences; and much more. The blueprint also lays out which kinds of decisions should be made by the faculty, the colleges or the district.
Counties throughout California are closely monitoring the speed and extent of the virus’ spread and may at some point recommend closures or other actions that would interrupt business as usual. We will follow the advice of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that any closure of our colleges or district offices would be done in consultation with the county health department.
Working with colleagues from the California Virtual Campus-Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI), the colleges are developing specific strategies for instructional continuity, including leveraging our technology infrastructure for alternative delivery options and providing support for instructors who currently teach exclusively face to face. Expanded training opportunities will be available for using tools such as Zoom and Canvas to continue instruction and communication with students during a temporary period of interruption or closure. Additionally, a variety of online student services will continue to be available including tutoring, counseling, and degree audit.
Accommodations for students with disabilities is a work in progress and a high priority for resolution.
CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE PRESENT
Flexibility in Attendance and Other Matters
These times require flexibility, care and consideration from everyone. Our expectation is that supervisors and administrators will be flexible if an employee becomes ill with COVID-19 or needs to take care of a family member who has been diagnosed with the virus. Employees in these situations absolutely should stay home until cleared by a doctor to return to work or until they have met the conditions for return set by our county health officials and the CDC. Obtaining medical certification to return may not be feasible if direct care needs outpace the capacity of providers. In that case, we will make decisions in accordance with the guidelines established by public health officials.
You will soon receive additional information on leaves and related employee issues that might occur during a disruption of services or in the event of illness or exposure. Leaders in the district Office of Human Resources are collaborating with union and meet-and-confer employee representatives to determine responses to possible scenarios in the context of contractual obligations and recommendations of the CDC and the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department. Please direct questions or concerns to Vice Chancellor Dorene Novotny or Myisha Washington, district director of human resources, or directly to your union representative.
Supervisors and administrators are encouraged to review their operations and develop contingency plan options for remote work assignments, alternate schedules or possible telecommuting in the event such measures become necessary or recommended by county public health officials. Such measures may be required in order to continue the delivery of services to our students during a disruption.
I also strongly encourage instructors to consider flexibility with student attendance and participation without sacrificing academic standards. We have heard that some students are attending classes while ill because they do not want to lose participation points or exceed the allowable number of absences. Some faculty have solved this problem by using Zoom and even email to substitute for physical presence. We look forward to learning more about other strategies that have been used.
Keeping Surroundings Clean
Following public health advice, we are increasing and intensifying cleaning. I have been assured that the cleaning products already in use by our custodial staff are the best available for disinfecting surfaces, and we are working on increasing the frequency of cleaning in high traffic, high need areas such as classrooms, athletics areas, eating areas, computer labs and restrooms. The campuses also have ordered additional supplies for general use and will continue to make those available as needed. Custodians already are performing additional sanitation measures including frequent, repeated cleaning of desktops and other instructional surfaces. In addition, the district is securing additional staffing to help with cleaning and sanitation.
We are currently following the guidelines issued March 5 by Santa Clara County public health officials about cancelling or postponing “mass gatherings” and large community events. In a further clarification, the county suggested weighing four factors when deciding whether to postpone or cancel:
- The number of people attending the event – fewer than 100 (small), 100 to 999 (medium sized) and 1,000 or more (large).
- The extent to which the nature and set up of the event would enable participants to maintain “'social distance” of three to six feet.
- The duration – a one-hour event is significantly less risky than one that lasts for a half- or full-day.
- The extent to which the participants are at higher risk of becoming severely ill, for example, a class for college students versus a class specifically aimed at older adults.
The county recommends making decisions about whether to hold events on a rolling 30-day basis, applying the public health department’s most current recommendations.
There have been some reports of discriminatory behavior based on false assumptions linking race, ethnicity, or national origin to the spread of the virus. To be clear, such assumptions are false and should be promptly addressed and not allowed to perpetuate. I am proud of our districtwide commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment and urge everyone to help us live that commitment. Should you experience or observe discrimination and are not comfortable addressing the matter directly, please report it to your supervisor, your campus Title IX/Title 5 representative, or the district Office of Human Resources for follow up.
Travel Restrictions and Voluntary Limits
For now, the district will not approve or fund new requests for travel to countries that the CDC recommends for suspension of all nonessential travel. Currently, that includes China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy, and older adults and people with chronic health conditions are advised to avoid travel to Japan. If you have work-related travel already planned for one of these areas, please discuss issues of reimbursement and safety with your supervisor.
Diagnosis of COVID-19
The CDC advises people who are sick to call ahead to a healthcare provider if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread. Your healthcare professional will work with the public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19.
The colleges are each preparing information about how to refer or report a student or coworker with COVID-19-type symptoms and will distribute them separately. In the meantime, if you have or know of a situation involving possible symptoms, please report your concerns directly to your supervisor for review and follow-up.
The following websites will help you learn more about COVID-19 and stay informed about any new developments as the situation evolves.
- State and federal health agencies
- Other health agencies
- Santa Clara County Public Health Department
- Santa Clara County Public Health Department on Facebook
- San Mateo County Health
- San Benito County Health & Human Services Agency
- Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency
- Alameda County Public Health
- San Francisco Department of Public Health
- World Health Organization
- College websites
- Teaching and learning resources
While this new strain of coronavirus has a high transmission rate, most people will recover from it. According to county health department estimates, 80% of the people infected by COVID-19 will experience only mild illness.
However, older individuals and people with underlying health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, chronic lung diseases like COPD, or weakened immune systems are at greater risk for serious illness if they contract the virus. Some of you may be surprised to know that this “older” caution applies to individuals over age 50 years of age, who are considered at higher risk for serious illness. Risk increases with age, with persons over age 80 in the highest risk category. According to the CDC, pregnant women experience immunologic and physiologic changes that might make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections, including COVID-19.
I know that the onslaught of news and information about COVID-19 can feel overwhelming and create fear and anxiety. I urge you to focus on what you can do to protect yourself and others from infection and to treat each other with care and kindness. Also, please remember that we have a good resource for difficult times in the district’s Employee Assistance Program.
With sincere appreciation for the privilege of working with you during these challenging