Editorial: DCCCD should announce changes now to ease COVID-19 uncertainty

Illustration by Anthony Lazon/The EtCEtera

The Dallas County Community College District needs to extend spring break for a week amid
the outbreak of the coronavirus.

It’s the responsibility of the district to ensure the public is safe. By allowing the roughly 92,300
students and employees to show up for school or work without taking time off to address the
situation is not a smart decision.

While we are not suggesting there should be hysteria, we are suggesting that the district take an
extra week to plan ahead for worst case scenarios.

By extending spring break for an extra week, the situation can be monitored to determine if
classes will need to move online. It will also allow all employees in the district to determine how
they will teach and do their jobs remotely.

While we understand there are many factors to consider, such as students’ access to wi-fi if
classes do go online, or the difficulty of teaching some classes that require hands-on labs, the
fact remains that district administrators should understand that Dallas is not observing the
pandemic anymore. We are living in it.

Now that Spectrum is offering free wi-fi and broadband to homes with students, the district
cannot use that excuse. Also, students’ access to wi-fi and electronic devices was not a factor in
the deal with Follett that will force many textbooks to go online, so this excuse is not viable.

Our district would not be alone. Seven campuses across North Texas and many more
throughout the nation have extended their spring break.

Considering that Collin County has seven cases of COVID-19, compared to Dallas’ 11, our
district should be following suit with Collin College who has extended their spring break.

Dallas County has also banned all public gatherings greater than 500 people after declaring a
state of emergency. Allowing public campuses, such as Eastfield with enrollment numbers
greater than 16,000, to continue operating after just a week off is not in the best interest of
anyone’s health. With each campus being open to the public, the possibility of an outbreak is
even greater.

With a disease like coronavirus, which is spread through respiratory droplets from coughing or
sneezing, practicing social distancing is a must to keep the pandemic at bay. Nipunie
Rajapakse, a specialist in infectious diseases at Mayo Clinic, said these droplets can travel up
to 3 to 6 feet. She said by practicing social distancing the risk of catching the virus dramatically decreases.

Our campuses regularly have people on campus who are more susceptible to dying from this
disease. Whether it’s older employees, students or people with an auto-immune disease, their
health and safety should be considered.

We appreciate that officials with the DCCCD are not panicking, and concern is warranted, which
is why all events of more than 25 people were canceled. But it doesn’t make sense that a
classroom with 60 could be taking place in about a week.

It’s time to shut down. Not for an extra vacation, but for the safety of everyone in the metroplex
by not creating a place where the virus could get out of hand.

With the Board of Trustees’ emergency meeting tomorrow, we hope the discussion will end with
an extended spring break.

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