With the start of the fall semester approaching, several Bay Area higher education institutions are making decisions about how to safely and effectively provide instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic. While the schools have all committed to following state and local guidelines, including mandatory face covering policies and stringent cleaning practices, their approaches to resuming instruction are varied.

Here is an overview of how Alvin Community College, College of the Mainland, San Jacinto College and University of Houston-Clear Lake plan to begin the 2020-21 academic year.

Alvin Community College

The Brazoria County-based community college is offering in-person, hybrid, remote and online learning options in the fall. Some programs require students and faculty to be physically present for classes based on instructional or licensure requirements, so instruction for those classes will be on campus or at an off-site location, according to ACC’s coronavirus website.

The hybrid option entails limited face-to-face instruction for hands-on skills and competency testing with the remainder of teaching conducted online. Remote learning is synchronous, meaning students are virtually present in real time for labs, lectures and classroom interactions, where online learning is done asynchronously on a flexible schedule.

Facilities and student support services will operate with limited hours and staffing. More information is available on ACC’s fall 2020 Return to College page.

College of the Mainland

The Texas City-based community college will follow a step-by-step plan to gradually relax restrictions on campuses, with the final step being a return to full operations. The steps range from full facility closure to “a return to non-emergency, post-COVID-19 new normal,” according to the college's reopening guide, which is similar to the reopening plan laid out by Clear Creek ISD.

The middle stage, "Pre-Opening," is targeted to begin Aug. 10. At this time, noninstructional campus staff would return to work based on approved staffing schedules, and student services on campus would be available as needed to facilitate fall registration. By the start of the fall term, the college aims to open with restrictions and new health and safety measures in place; these include mandatory face coverings, physical distancing whenever possible and keeping class sizes at or below 50% capacity.

More details are available in COM’s reopening guide.

San Jacinto College

The Pasadena-based community college is offering four course delivery methods through its San Jac My Way model in the fall, several of which are similar to those at ACC. San Jacinto is also the only of these four Bay Area colleges to establish a COVID-19 positive case response protocol on its website as of July 30.

Students can take their courses online, either on their own time or through a structured schedule. One in-person option is taking hybrid format courses for technical and applied skills, where most instruction is done online and students come to campus in small groups for hands-on learning and practical testing.

The college’s flex campus learning option allows students to rotate between in-person and remote instruction during the semester. Small groups of students attend classes on campus with the rest of the class online, and the groups rotate, allowing multiple chances to attend in person for those interested.

The response protocol is triggered by the potentially COVID-19-positive student or employee filling out the college’s required daily prescreening questionnaire. If a student or employee is awaiting test results or tests positive, that person informs their instructor or supervisor and remains at home. Areas that person was in will be disinfected by college staff, with emails sent to any students or employees who came into contact with the potentially positive person, and case tracing is conducted. Proof of negative test results is required before that person is permitted to return to a campus facility.

For more information, visit the college’s coronavirus website.

University of Houston-Clear Lake

University of Houston’s Clear Lake campus will offer a majority of courses online with varying degrees of synchronous components. Some online classes will be offered asynchronously with no face-to-face interactions or required meeting times; others will be conducted with meetings at a particular day and time in a virtual classroom. There is also a course option combining the two online styles of learning, where students occasionally meet at a set time in a virtual classroom.

Some classes will be offered bimodally with a “safe number of students” learning in a socially distanced classroom and content being provided in another format for remote participation, according to UHCL’s website. Each bimodal and synchronous/asynchronous course will have a percentage listed on the schedule that explains how much time a student is expected to attend class in each mode.

UHCL’s process for responding to a COVID-19 case is not formally defined online, but self-quarantine procedures follow a similar structure to San Jacinto’s positive case response protocol.

More details, including information about coronavirus emergency assistance for students, are available on the university’s COVID-19 updates page.