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Napa Valley College to blend in-person and online learning this fall

Napa Valley College to blend in-person and online learning this fall

Napa Valley College

With safety in large crowds still elusive amid the coronavirus outbreak, Napa Valley College will keep up its remote learning program this fall – but also welcome back students for a variety of disciplines with no substitute for hands-on training.

More than 60 percent of the classes NVC will offer starting in August will be presented online, but on-campus instruction will take place for courses including nursing, viticulture, theater and public safety officer training. Science laboratories and other training facilities also will open, with modifications to maintain safe distancing among students and faculty, according to Holly Dawson, spokesperson for the school.

NVC’s preparations are taking place against a backdrop of uncertainty about what guidance California will give to community colleges seeking to restore in-person teaching after the spread of COVID-19 triggered a statewide shutdown in March. Furthermore, a renewed spread of the virus in the fall could fully close campuses again and require another fallback to online-only instruction.

Unlike the safety protocols recently released for elementary and secondary schools in the Napa Valley, “there is no clear guidance from the state or county for a community college, so we are moving forward, keeping mind the current shelter-at-home order, social distancing protocols, etc., and limiting face-to-face classes,” Dawson said in an email.

“That said, our fall schedule will be robust, with a primarily online schedule, and hands-on courses such as labs and clinicals scheduled in person where social distancing protocols can be safely followed.”

Among the NVC offerings that will include in-person training this fall are the programs for winemaking and grapegrowing, nursing, respiratory care, theater, music, photography, public speaking, machine technology and physical education, said Dawson. Also continuing will be on-campus training at the college’s police and corrections academies, as well as programs for first responders, paramedics and dispatchers.

With social distancing rules in place and many courses moved to the internet, Dawson estimated the number of students on NVC’s main campus off Highway 221 could average about 300 during the morning hours from Monday to Thursday, dropping to 200 in the afternoons. The college could host up to 439 students on the premises for evening classes if all sections are filled to capacity. (Registration for fall classes opened on Tuesday.)

NVC expects to offer its normal range of courses for the fall semester, according to Assistant Superintendent Bob Parker, who said an uptick in summer-session enrollment may foretell solid interest from Napans in attending their local school when COVID-19 has forced many four-year universities to sharply scale back their in-person offerings.

“It may have a lot to do with students thinking, ‘If I enroll in a four-year college but I’m not able to physically attend classes and I’ll be doing it at home, wouldn’t it make more sense to do that and get that education at my local community college?’” he said.

On-campus capacity in the fall will be determined by how much classroom seating must be removed to meet distancing requirements to slow the spread of coronavirus, as well as the extent to which various departments can move instruction online. NVC is avoiding the conversion of gyms, the student activity center and other non-traditional spaces into temporary classrooms, Dawson said.

Even if a sharp jump in coronavirus cases does not close down the NVC campus, the school still must accommodate students and faculty who don’t yet feel safe enough to return because of health concerns for themselves or for household members, according to Charo Albarran, associate vice president for human resources.

“Everyone has personal concerns, and we want to allow flexibility for anyone who’s in a high-risk category, or taking care of people who are,” she said. “… We’re aware we have students who want that face-to-face interaction. We have a lot of support to move to that (model) as much as we can, but also allow a variety of choices to our students to address social distancing.”

NVC plans to field most of its fall-season sports teams on schedule, but the men’s and women’s basketball seasons will be moved to the spring of 2021, said Dawson. The California Community College Athletic Association, of which NVC is a member, voted June 5 to shorten seasons to no more than three-quarters their normal length and eliminate statewide championships until California reaches the fourth and final stage of COVID-19 recovery, which would require a vaccine and widely available treatment for the virus.

You can reach Howard Yune at 707-256-2214 or

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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