Hancock College will continue offering the majority of classes in a distance learning format in the upcoming spring semester, college officials announced Tuesday.

The decision to remain in distance learning for the remainder of the academic year was made in conjunction with several college stakeholders and in compliance with the college's pandemic plan, according to Hancock Superintendent and President Dr. Kevin Walthers.

“The safety of our students, employees and community continues to be at the forefront as we prepare for spring,” Walthers said. “The decision to continue a remote teaching modality reflects a phased and measured approach to reopening that will keep Hancock healthy while continuing to provide a quality education to our students.”

Hancock's Pandemic Response Plan states that the college's reopening status will be determined in alignment with the status of Santa Barbara County. The county is currently in its fourth week in the state's second-most restrictive phase, the red tier.

Considering the county's status, the college will remain in its "phase 2," which implies a limited modified reopening and the majority of programs continuing to offer classes remotely, with the exception of certain labs and career technical education classes. 

It was not immediately clear how the college's reopening status may change if the county was to advance into the state's next reopening phase, the orange tier, prior to the start of the semester on Jan. 19.

The college's decision comes two months into the fall semester, which has also been held in a distance format due to the COVID-19 pandemic with limited in-person services and mostly remote classes. 

During this time, however, the college has offered digital and academic resources to students including a laptop lending program, virtual counseling, online tutoring and emergency funding, McGuinness said. 

While Santa Barbara City College also has opted to continue with remote learning in the spring, other neighboring community colleges such as Cuesta College have not shared any official decisions about next semester. 

Priority registration for spring semester starts Nov. 2 and open registration begins Nov. 7. Students can access the online class listing via Class Search on the college website, hancockcollege.edu

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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