Clark College will continue online learning through the fall 2020 quarter, it announced Friday.
In an email to students, Interim President Sandra Fowler-Hill said college officials and faculty needed enough time to prepare for continued virtual instruction in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our ‘new normal’ will depend on what the virus does,” Fowler-Hill wrote.
“We must consider our whole community’s health and safety first and foremost,” she continued.
Fall term runs Sept. 21 through Dec. 10, which means students won’t return to school en masse until 2021.
The announcement came as the college was winding down its first week of remote learning. College spokeswoman Kelly Love said the college was inundated with requests from students needing help accessing classes, as well as students who had lost income and needed more financial aid.
“We’ve been very busy this week,” she said.
Still, Love said staff are feeling the pressure of supporting students through the COVID-19 crisis.
“There’s a pressure and a heaviness to do it well,” Love said.
Gov. Jay Inslee’s latest “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order lasts through May 4, and while he’s hinted at extending portions of the order, it’s unclear how higher education will be affected in the future.
A number of Clark College programs that require hands-on training have been scaled back under the order, with hopes to restart lab classes in the summer. Love said the college is advocating to the state to allow a safe return to those classes with proper social distancing so students can complete their studies.
Washington State University has not extended its campus closures. The university system is online through at least the end of the spring semester, which ends on May 8. Fall semester is scheduled to begin Aug. 24.
At the grade school level, state Superintendent Chris Reykdal suggested early this month that closures could extend through the fall, but an official decision has not yet been announced.