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GRCC extending distancing learning for all of the summer semester, planning for “some” campus instruction for fall

Grand Rapids Community College on the opening day of the summer semester; a vacant campus as the worldwide coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll (Sabrina Edwards/The Collegiate).

Grand Rapids Community College will have classes online for the second segment of the summer semester while working toward a partial return to in-class learning during the fall, administrators announced Tuesday. The campus has been closed since March when the coronavirus pandemic reached Michigan. 

According to a release, GRCC has created a “robust” schedule for online learning while certain programs in the School of Workforce Development and Job Training will be offered in-person. 

“The pandemic will change many of the ways we do things, but it will not change GRCC playing an essential role in West Michigan’s recovery,” GRCC President Bill Pink stated. “We embrace our mission, and we won’t compromise on the safety and wellness of our students, faculty and staff.”

A task force led by Brian Knetl, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, alongside Lisa Freiburger, Vice President for Finance and Administration has been created to work on a strategy to “gradually and safely” reopen the campus. 

The team is working with community health and campus leaders and has created a four-phase strategy. Guidelines for social distancing, sanitation measures, and other necessary steps will be followed to ensure the safety of students and faculty for classes where in-person “instruction is preferable or essential.”

“Our faculty is doing a tremendous job transitioning classes to distance learning,” Knetl stated. “As we move into the fall, we will continue to find innovative and creative ways to deliver quality instruction in a variety of formats.”

Because of the economic downturn, the college is prepping for a potential upswing in enrollment. Traditionally when the economy isn’t doing well, enrollment at community colleges increase. However, given the highly unusual nature of the coronavirus crisis it is difficult to make predictions about enrollment at this time. 

During a Board of Trustees meeting Monday, Pink said he was “impressed and surprised” by the promising number of students enrolled during the first seven-week summer semester. The college is waiving fees for summer classes, saving students around $200. 

“We are by no means out from under this crisis yet,” Pink stated. “And we may never go back to exactly the way we were. But in many ways, we will be stronger. We can be nimble and flexible – and highly effective. That’s how this college has risen up and faced challenges in the past, and this is no different.”

The college is continuing to offer services and assistance remotely. A weekly curbside food distribution is in place for students. The next food pickup is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, May 27 on Lyon Street near Olivarez Plaza. People are asked to bring a RaiderCard or other photo identification. Future dates can be found here. For additional needs, contact the GRCC Get Help program.