CHAMPAIGN — Thousands of Parkland College students will be taking a lot of their classes online this fall, for safety’s sake.
“The default is, what can be online will be online,” Parkland President Tom Ramage said Friday.
Parkland officials have planned a hybrid model for the fall semester in which most of students’ time on campus will be reserved for classes in which they need to be physically present, such as labs for health professions and the automotive technician training program, Ramage said.
To minimize students’ time on campus after the Thanksgiving break, plans also include ending much of on-campus attendance Nov. 20 and transitioning to online instruction for the rest of the semester — though career courses requiring in-person labs may continue meeting on campus for the rest of the semester, according to Parkland’s website.
Students have also been advised that classes with larger enrollments may be subject to staggered scheduling for on-campus meetings.
So far, about 3,000 students have registered for the fall semester that begins Aug. 24 — about 1,000 fewer than the number typically registered at this point, Ramage said.
He’s hoping for a rush on enrollment as the start of the semester gets closer, he said.
Many students typically wait until close to the deadline to enroll anyway, he said, and the pandemic is likely encouraging more to wait.
“I think there’s a lot of people who are waiting to see what happens,” Ramage said.
More of what to expect for the fall semester: Face masks will be a must for students and staff, and Parkland is taking that seriously, Ramage said.
“If they don’t want to comply, they don’t have to come in the front door,” he warned.
Students will also find the floors marked to guide them in maintaining social distancing, and there will be many hand-sanitizer stations around campus, Ramage said.
Food service will be available, but it will be limited to mostly pre- packaged items.
And most of the offices, which are already open to serve students, will continue to have at least some employees working from home when that’s possible, Ramage said.
“When fall semester starts, we will obviously have more people on campus, bring more employees back,” he said.
Testing students for the coronavirus has been discussed, but a final decision hasn’t yet been reached, Ramage said.
Since Parkland lacks the facilities for mass testing, he said, officials are leaning toward directing students to use the testing sites already available in the community, including the free state-sponsored drive-thru site at Market Place Mall.
While fall enrollment is currently down, Ramage said Parkland saw a 5 percent boost for the summer semester, with 3,193 students enrolled.
“Summer was great,” he said.