American River College announces more on-campus classes for fall 2021 semester

The “impossible to convert” courses have been dormant for the past year


A series of “impossible to convert” classes, such as those in the Automotive Technology department, will resume in fall 2021. Students enrolled in these classes will still have to follow safety mitigation strategies. (Photo via the ARC website)

The Los Rios Community College District announced that its fall 2021 semester will be a hybrid of on-the-ground classes and online classes. According to the Framework for Reopening document released by the LRCCD, the fall 2021 Schedule is planned to be published on March 22.

During the pandemic, the only programs allowed on Los Rios campuses have been associated with the Allied Health division. At ARC, these programs encompass classes in funeral services, nursing, paramedic, public safety, and respiratory care. According to the Plan and Guidelines for Resuming ARC Nursing Simulation and Skill Labs Fall 2020 released by the ARC nursing department, students in these programs must follow stringent sanitation practices, such as daily temperature checks, face shields, and caps on classroom occupancy.

Now, this fall, the 11 “impossible to convert” classes will be offered at the campus in addition to the Allied Health courses.

For the past year, these ARC programs have been at a near standstill due to their nature: Adaptive PE, Automotive, Automotive Collision, Biotechnology, Diesel, Electrician Trainee, Culinary Arts, Health Care Interpreting, Horticulture and Welding.

According to Gabe Ross, assistant vice chancellor of strategy and communications, these courses could not be replicated online.

“We have thousands of students in our district who have not been able to take any classes in their program of study,” Ross said.

Jennifer Andronas, a professor in the automotive department, said she’s excited to go back to the classroom, but there will be challenges in keeping everyone safe.  

“I feel when there are in person events, people let their guard down because they are enjoying themselves,” Andronas said. “When we finally do get to see each other, it is going to be difficult to keep six feet apart and keep masks on.”

Andronas has a plan to combat this challenge, including being strict on social distancing, masking, and having rules on hanging out after class.

“When class is over, everyone must leave,” Andronas said.

Students can expect similar safety measures for all of the on-ground courses this fall. According to Ross, mitigation measures such as social distancing and mask wearing will still be in place in the fall.

“Without knowing the specific public health conditions, we can’t say how exactly it would work,” Ross said. “But we will continue to follow the guidance and direction of public health experts.”

The LRCCD recently updated many of its buildings’ HVAC systems in accordance with the Center for Disease Control and The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers guidelines. The HVAC systems have been programmed to do full flushes twice daily, in addition to the normal four to six air-changes in an hour.

In most buildings, the system filters in the HVAC systems were upgraded from a MERV 8 to a MERV13 filter. The MERV13 filter is equivalent to N95 masks in terms of filtration, according to the guidelines in Making our Buildings Resistant to COVID-19, found on the ARC webpage.

According to Ross, LRCCD will be maintaining the high standards for classroom cleanliness set by the Sacramento County Department of Public Health.

“At this time we don’t anticipate we’d need to bring on additional staff or ask faculty to sanitize their own classrooms in order to meet these appropriately high standards,” Ross said.

As of right now, the ARC administration doesn’t know how the vaccine policy will be for faculty and students. According to Ross, while the school is encouraged by the great progress over the past weeks in vaccine distribution, they are waiting on guidance from the county/state on how vaccination policies will be.

Los Rios staff are all now eligible for their COVID-19 vaccinations, free of charge.

Melanie Dixon, president of ARC, says she recognizes that predicting the public health situation of Sacramento County is one of the biggest challenges.

“There are many unknowns right now. We just don’t know what may happen next with regards to public health factors in our region,” Dixon said. “But we can control our planning and our collaboration, to give us the flexibility to respond as best we can.”

As Sacramento County COVID-19 cases become less widespread, there will be more classes that will be made available on-ground. According to the Framework for Reopening document, these classes will be decided on a case-by-case basis. The criteria for these classes would include program dynamics that allow social distancing protocols, such as classes that are traditionally held outdoors.

While many students may be excited to go back to campus, online courses will still be the staple and students who don’t feel ready to resume on-the-ground courses will still have lots of options for online courses this fall, according to Ross.

Students and faculty with concerns are encouraged to leave their feedback here. Feedback on the site was a key information gathering tool used by the administration.

“There was a significant focus on listening to the concerns of students and employees,” Dixon said. “I am confident moving forward that the planning process will continue to be attentive to those concerns.”