The unforeseen pandemic—COVID-19—has completely changed the way Santa Monica College and higher education institutions across the U.S. and the globe function. With the swift pivot to an online environment behind us, and a future reopening in the hopefully not-distant future ahead, it is clear that a thoughtful plan is required: a roadmap to recovery (“R2R”). Above all, an R2R plan must be focused on the safety and wellbeing of the college community.
Unlike SMC, many colleges and universities across the nation announced early plans for in-person or hybrid instruction for the fall 2020 semester. However, a surge in COVID-19 cases and its spread in the community has led to many institutions rolling back their plans. Scheduling classes, day-to-day operations and services, and advanced planning at a large organization like Santa Monica College is highly complex. Because of the pandemic, all decisions require critical analysis and constant evaluation of the risks to the community, informed by the latest data and implementation practices.
The SMC Emergency Operations Team (EOT) has kept the above factors at the forefront when developing reopening strategies for the college. A phased approach for the R2R allows the college the flexibility to pivot as needed towards an in-person environment or revert to greater use of online modalities based on the guidance of local and state public health officials. This five-phased R2R plan provides guidelines for a return to on-ground college operations that take into account the health, safety, and welfare of SMC employees and students. It is intended to mitigate the anticipated risk of a COVID-19 resurgence. The plan takes into consideration the need to protect vulnerable and high-risk individuals and the need to provide the greatest degree of contact tracing to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the SMC community.
Three key considerations in implementing phases for those employees who return to an on-ground, in-person work environment are 1) training, 2) education, and 3) safety controls. These considerations will also help provide continuity of operations for all the departments and programs identified. It is important to keep in mind that this is a living document. As stated before, the college regards health and safety as the highest principles and will adopt an evidence-based risk management approach to guide decisions.
This guide does not provide authoritative health and safety recommendations. It is intended to stimulate discussion and prompt planning for departments and programs to probe critical areas, ask challenging questions, and develop planning frameworks for different COVID-19 scenarios. Health and safety guidance is provided by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Los Angeles County of Public Health, and other relevant public health authorities; government mandates will continue to fluctuate and change based on public health conditions. The SMC EOT monitors all changes in guidance on a daily basis.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach or industry-wide best practice standards developed and proven for reopening institutions of higher learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. In preparing this guide, the authors decided to err on the side of being as detailed as possible in order to anticipate the needs or questions of the readers. I encourage you to read this guide, use it to the utmost to help develop plans for your departments, and raise questions whenever needed.
Some acknowledgments are in order. Thank you to the following teams/individuals for providing crucial leadership, guidance, and input: the members of SMC’s senior staff; the EOT leads: Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Tuitasi, SMC Police Chief Johnnie Adams, Director of Health and Wellbeing Dr. Susan Fila, Director of Safety & Risk Management Daniel Phillips, SMC Police Captain Vincent Carter; the members of the Emergency Operations Committee: Robert Myers, Brenda Benson, Erica LeBlanc, Jason Beardsley, Tre’shawn Hall-Baker, Linda Sullivan, Devin Starnes, Kiersten Elliott, Reggie Ellis, Grace Smith, Regina Ip, Marc Drescher, Diana Askew, Sherri Lee-Lewis, Mitch Heskel and Charlie Yen. In addition, special thanks to the members of subcommittees who have been working on specific tasks alongside the EOT leads:
- Athletics and Kinesiology Planning Subcommittee: Reggie Ellis, Jennifer Merlic, Jason Beardsley, Lydia Ayala, Elaine Roque, Lydia Strong, and Diane Watanabe
- Chromebook and Equipment Distribution Team: Lina Ladyzhenskaya, Dione Carter, Max Brossy, Lisa Burns, Elease Juarez, Tanysha Delton, Mitch Heskel and Dave Dever
- Equipment Return and Dispersal Subcommittee: Patricia Burson, Fariba Dinaali, Josh Sanseri, Brian Driscoll, Michael Jimerson, Sean Blocklin, Lori Geller, Peter Smith, Linda Sullivan, Patrick Connor, Christine Cadena, Gary Huff, Michelle Aragon, Colleen McGraw, Cynthia Moore, Jason Beardsley, Erica LeBlanc, Nyla Cotton, and Judith Mosher
- Food Distribution: Lizzy Moore, Taziwa Chanaiwa, Dave Dever, Derrick Davis, Sharlyne Massillon, Vanan Yahnian, and numerous volunteers
- Human Resources Subcommittee: Sherri Lee-Lewis, Robert Myers, Hannah Lawler, and Tre’ Shawn Hall-Baker
- Instructional Planning: Jennifer Merlic, Erica LeBlanc, Jason Beardsley, Sherri Lee-Lewis, Nate Donahue, and Jamar London
- Marketing/Information/Communications Subcommittee: Don Girard, Kiersten Elliott, Regina Ip, Jonathan Ng, Teresita Rodriguez, Esau Tovar, Cleve Barton, Grace Smith, and Linda Sullivan
- Procurement/Facilities/Budget Subcommittee: Cynthia Moore, Chris Bonvenuto, Devin Starnes, Dennis Biddle and Mitch Heskel
- Training Team: Daniel Phillips, Susan Fila, Kiersten Elliott, Cyrus Fernandez, Diane Watanabe and Marcia Lewis
And last, but certainly not the least, throughout this critical time of planning, the support and collaboration of the following constituency groups have been absolutely indispensable: SMC Board of Trustees, Academic Senate, Faculty Association, CSEA, Management Association, the SMC Police Officers Association, and Associated Students.
I thank all of these teams and individuals for their dedication to maintaining the highest standards of excellence at Santa Monica College, while navigating an unprecedented public health crisis.
Kathryn E. Jeffery, Ph.D.