Contributed - University Photographer Brian Stethem
California Lutheran University will be among the first Los Angeles area universities to resume indoor, in-person instruction this spring.
“Few, if any, of us imagined that vast numbers of our community would largely ‘stay put’ for the next year. But so it has been,” University President Lori Varlotta said in a March 11 email announcement. “Finally, however, we are starting to see how and when increased activity on campus will once again be commonplace.”
Ventura County moved from the purple tier–the most restrictive–to the red tier on March 17, greenlighting the university’s transition to indoor instruction starting March 29.
“Beginning on March 29, Cal Lutheran will start offering indoor classes while our outdoor classes will continue in the tents,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Leanne Neilson said in a March 17 email announcement.
The College of Arts and Sciences and School of Management will be returning to indoor classrooms at 25% capacity on March 29, according to a March 18 email announcement from Ryan Van Ommeren, associate vice president of Planning & Services and Emergency Operations director.
On average, the university’s general purpose classrooms and computer labs accommodate about 10 students at 25% capacity, according to a spreadsheet with Red Tier room capacity information.
In a Zoom interview, Neilson said having students back on campus physically will help to create community and connection between the students and help improve the overall energy on campus.
“I think it will have a very positive effect on people’s mental health,” Neilson said. “I had been working from home for months and when I came back to campus, it was, it was just an amazing impact that it had on me. Mentally the energy level, in my office, I’m able to work better in the space that I have, and I think the same is true in a classroom.”
Van Ommeren has been working closely with university administrators, faculty and staff to prepare the institution for the pivot to indoor instruction.
In a Zoom interview, Van Ommeren said the outbreak that occurred last semester was a learning experience in regards to contact tracing and communication.
“If it does happen… we have some practice and it’s definitely exhausting for Health Services,” Van Ommeren said in a Zoom interview. “I think we tested 88 people in conduction with the breakout [last semester]. But having gone through that, we’ve got some experience. Hopefully we don’t have to go through that again.”
Associated Students California Lutheran University Government Programs Board Director and senior Alyssa Frausto said in a Zoom interview that it may be a rough transition for some students who decide to come back for in-person classes.
“It’s gonna be rough, I think, for a little bit, cause there are still students who are scared to come back, who are scared to come to events, who are kinda like we’re just rushing back into it,” Frausto said. “I think mentally it’s gonna be a big shift for a lot of people, like tryna get back to that normal, whatever that is anymore.”
Maria Kohnke, associate vice president of Academic Services and Registrar, said this transition late in the spring semester will allow the university to prepare for a safe return to fully in-person instruction in the fall.
“This is a good way for us to start to make sure we have it right,” Kohnke said in a Zoom interview. “You know, it is a big responsibility for the university to make sure that if we’re bringing students back on campus, we’re doing it in a way that will keep you all safe.”