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SMC, School District Prepare Plans for Remote Classes as Coronavirus Declared Pandemic

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March 11, 2020 -- Santa Monica College (SMC) and School District officials announced Wednesday they have plans in place to switch to online teaching as the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic.

The announcements come as Universities across Southern California -- including UCLA, USC and Loyola Marymount -- said they will begin suspending all in-person classes.

SMC already has suspended classes and in-person activities at Emeritus College, the school’s program for older adults, who at greater risk of become severely ill, officials said.

In addition, the college canceled study-abroad trips scheduled for spring break.

SMC and School District officials noted their emergency plans are preventive and that there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at either the college or District schools.

"We understand the fear, uncertainty, and anxiety that surrounds this situation, and wish to reassure you that the safety and wellbeing of SMC’s students and employees remain our highest priority," said Kathryn E. Jeffery, SMC's Superintendent and President.

Jeffery noted that unlike universities that suspended in person classes, SMC does not have residential halls or medical facilities that create greater risk.

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District officials said Wednesday that they have activated the Emergency Operations Center and have "reviewed, updated, and are ready to implement our pandemic plan if needed."

"Part of our plan includes the ability to continue to offer our students an education remotely if schools need to close for an extended period of time," said Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati.

"We are confident in our ability to do this if it becomes necessary."

The district also boosted its sanitation efforts after the first case of coronavirus in Los Angeles County was reported at the end of January, Drati said.

"Our custodial team has increased sanitation efforts in all of our schools and throughout the district," he said..

"Our team will continue spending additional time and increasing its frequency of cleaning and disinfecting, especially in regard to high-traffic areas and touchpoints."

The District also has ordered hand sanitizer, disinfectant and other supplies, Drati said. Some items are on backorder, while other supplies are "on hand."

"We are working diligently to provide these products to assist with classroom cleanliness," Drati said.

The custodial and maintenance staffs will receive additional hygiene training with a focus on the coronavirus, and school nurses have been trained to properly isolate a student or staff member "if concern of this virus arises," he said.

In addition, the District's transportation department has increased its cleaning protocols and "will be wiping and disinfecting buses each school day," Drati said.

The District is asking new students before they enroll if they have traveled abroad.

"Any families that have recently traveled internationally must have been in the United States for 14 days and healthy before enrolling and entering our schools," Drati said.

Both the District and college are in constant touch and taking direction from the the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH), as well as education agencies, officials said.

At UCLA, all in-person classes were suspended effective Wednesday, March 11, although no coronavirus cases have been confirmed on campus, said the university’s Chancellor Gene D. Block.

UCLA will offer its Winter Quarter final exams remotely and is encouraging students to start the Spring Quarter remotely from home.

The school also is phasing out "nonessential gatherings of more than 100 people," and all UCLA Athletics home events will be spectator-free through April 10, Block said.

Loyola Marymount announced classes will meet online from March 16 to March 31, and USC said it would extend online lectures through the rest of the month over coronavirus concerns.

USC is also canceling or postponing all university-sponsored events, school officials said.

No coronavirus cases have been confirmed at USC or Loyola Marymount.

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