Union Calling for Remote Period at Community Colleges
On Jan. 12, the Massachusetts Community College Council, which represents the faculty and professional staff at the state’s 15 community colleges, sent the letter below to the presidents of each college. The MCCC is advocating for the use of remote learning for the first two weeks of the spring semester. This will allow faculty to set up effective learning conditions and continuity of instruction plans amid predicable disruptions caused by high rates of absences, as well as allow them to maintain public health and safety amid the current surge of COVID-19 driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant.
Dear Presidents of Massachusetts Community Colleges,
Given the extremely high transmissibility of the omicron variant among both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, even when wearing face coverings, we the local and chapter leadership of the MCCC are requesting that the 15 community colleges begin face-to-face classes for the 2022 spring semester in a remote modality for the first two weeks of the semester, with the exception of programs that must be delivered on campus such as culinary, nursing or other health-related programs and workforce. We further request that, during the same period, the college retain minimal staffing levels for student-facing offices, and unit professional staff be permitted to telework.
While we recognize the value of on-ground face-to-face learning for many of our students as well as that an on-ground presence of employees contributes to the vitality of a campus, the potentially high levels of COVID-caused absences among students, support staff, and faculty due to the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 is likely to cause such disruption during the first several weeks of classes that learning may not occur at all. The first two weeks of class are the most important for student success. The current positive rate in Massachusetts is 23%, a percentage likely to be much higher since it does not include those who have tested positive with at-home tests or those who are positive for COVID but do not have access to tests. If a quarter of the instructors and students are absent in the first two weeks of the semester due to COVID, critical material cannot be adequately covered. Additionally, those who are COVID-positive with no symptoms attending class or who only have a mild case of COVID, but think they are okay enough to attend class, will further cause COVID to spread, exacerbating an already bad situation. Critical mass for the class to achieve the necessary continuity of instruction for student success might never be achieved or achieved too late in the semester for many students.
If all on-ground face-to-faces classes were to begin remotely, continuity of instruction can be achieved in the first two weeks. Those who are COVID-positive with no symptoms or who only have mild illness can attend class without spreading the virus. It will give the on-ground classes a chance to stem the upward surge of the virus and help ensure that our students can have a successful semester. It will also help ensure that students, faculty, and staff are able to engage in necessary self-care should they contract COVID-19, which at this point is more likely than not because of the high transmissibility of the omicron variant.
We recognize the extraordinary, unprecedented nature of our request. But it is in response to the unprecedented nature of this unpredictable deadly global pandemic that is COVID-19. We ask that you work with your college’s MCCC chapter leadership to move face-to-face classes and unit on-ground work, where practicable, to a remote/telework modality for at least the first two weeks after the semester starts, and where essential student-facing offices require on-ground personnel, priority be given to those professional staff who prefer to be on ground.
We thank you for your time and attention to this urgent matter.