Amid COVID, wildfires and storms


If coping in the wake of the coronavirus wasn’t enough, community colleges in certain areas of the U.S. now are dealing with – or bracing for – storms and wildfires.

Among immediate concerns is a pair of storms hitting the Gulf Coast area in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Many community colleges along the projected path of the storms – which at press time were still tropical storms with the potential to strengthen into hurricanes – have closed campuses. For example, Louisiana’s Delgado, Nunez, Baton Rouge and South Louisiana community colleges all closed for Monday and Tuesday. That includes in-person and remote/online/virtual classes and activities.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College closed campuses and centers on Monday due to the potential severe weather, but students were able to remotely take classes, register for courses and receive student support. It planned to open operations and in-person classes on Tuesday.

A taxing wildfire season

Communities in California continue to contend with a tough wildfire season. The threat of fire and smoke in the Bay Area and much of Northern California prompted several two-year colleges to close for a few days. Foothill College in California, which last week closed its main and Sunnyvale campuses due to the unhealthy air quality caused by wildfires, will remain closed until further notice.

Sierra College‘s Rocklin campus closed Friday due to poor air quality, but all campuses were planning to open Monday – the first day of the fall semester – to essential personnel and students attending in-person labs, classes and activities. Cabrillo College decided to postpone Monday’s opening of its fall semester until August 31 due to fires.

Solano Community College was closed last week for a few days because of wildfires. It re-opened Monday, but it did not hold in-person classes because of unhealthy air quality and fire danger.

Several two-year colleges have served as evacuation centers for communities affected by the fires, including Cabrillo College and Lassen Community College. Cabrillo’s gym and parking lots are open for sleeping accommodations and for vehicle and RV parking. In conjunction with the Red Cross, the facility is COVID testing individuals seeking accommodations.

Recovering after a derecho

Meanwhile, communities in Iowa continue their recovery after a derecho this month devastated the state, damaging buildings and destroying crops.

Several two-year colleges are busy restoring power and fixing damaged facilities. Kirkwood Community College last week re-opened most of its buildings and locations following the previous week’s storms. A number of facilities remain closed, but the college is repairing its art and theater building, equestrian center, library and Center for Lifelong Learning, with the goal of fixing everything by the end of the month.

Area communities are still struggling with restoring power. As a result of the challenges, the start date of the fall semester for Kirkwood is now August 31.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.