BC, CSUB prepare for biggest numbers on their campuses since the pandemic began

Aug. 16—Local institutions of higher education have been preparing their facilities for the fall semester when they will see the biggest influx of students on campus since the pandemic shut them down.

The Kern Community College District, which includes Bakersfield College, only began to hold in-person classes for the summer session. Fall semester will be an even more monumental occasion at Cal State Bakersfield, where summer school was also held virtually. Only a small number of students have been on campus for lab experiences that couldn't be recreated virtually.

"We are so, so excited to have students back on campus," said Faust Gorham, CSUB's associate vice president of information technology and administrative services and chief information officer.

Fall semester begins at Bakersfield College on Aug. 21 and at CSUB on Aug. 23. Both campuses plan to offer a mix of face-to-face, virtual and hybrid courses with the heaviest emphasis on in-person courses.

At Bakersfield College, 48 percent of classes being offered are face-to-face, 40 percent are online and 12 percent will be offered as a hybrid, according to BC spokeswoman Monika Scott.

Earlier this month KCCD's hosted a Chancellor's Seminar Series on facilities updates and Randy Rowles, associate vice chancellor of construction and facilities planning, said that the summer session helped them prepare for the larger wave of students that will soon come on campus.

"We learned through reentry of summer school and preparing for the fall what works, what doesn't work and how we can be more efficient and more successful," Rowles said during the seminar.

Outfitting classrooms with the technology to offer both live and virtual instruction has been one of the biggest changes since the pandemic began at CSUB, according to Gorham.

Twenty-two classrooms at CSUB have been turned into designated "flex" classrooms that allow students to tune in virtually live. These classrooms are outfitted with special whiteboards and projectors that will not only help students online but will help those students in the back of the class read notes on the board, too, Gorham said.

CSUB professors can also request mobile carts that give them the capability to convert their classes to a flex classroom.

Students who arrive on campus for the first time will recognize many of the COVID-proofing features that have become familiar features of life since March 2020: more hand-sanitizing stations, no-touch faucets, bottle filling stations, revamped air filtration systems and lots of plexiglass in offices. There will be more rigorous cleaning schedules, especially in high-traffic, high-touch areas. But some details will be unique.

For instance, Bakersfield College has the Campus Pass App, which is a contact tracing tool. Everyone on campus will be asked to check in daily with an app on their phone that screens them for COVID-19 symptoms. Users scan QR codes posted at the entrances of classrooms and offices. This will help the college's COVID Response Team.

"In the case of an outbreak, they can track where I've been," explained Marcos Rodriguez, executive director of facilities and operations at Bakersfield College.

Another very unique COVID-era device that has been installed on BC's campus are phone chargers that also disinfect the phone.

Kern County tends to have nice weather during the fall and spring semesters, and local colleges have ample outdoor space. Both the Kern Community College District and CSUB have sought to capitalize on the outdoors as a safe place to work, eat and socialize. They have beefed up their Wi-Fi networks for outdoor studying. They have also added more tables and other seating options outside so students can study, eat or hang out.

KCCD Chancellor Sonya Christian pointed out during this month's seminar that employees with the Maintenance and Operations Department worked remotely for very little time before they returned to campus in 2020.

"Our M&O folks are seldom seen in the limelight, although the work they do is fundamental and critical to our well-being," said Christian.