A first: Gavilan College's Fall 2020 semester begins with online classesby Jan Janes on Sep 12, 2020
The year 2020 continues to deliver unexpected changes. The return to school in autumn, a national tradition, has been disrupted by the need for safety precautions and social distancing during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Students are adapting to new learning techniques, as Gavilan College shifts to offer most classes as online only for the fall.
We don't know when we will return, but we know we will. The beautiful campus awaits you!
On an early Monday morning, fog rolls back from the hills. Vehicles would be
streaming into the Gavilan College parking lots by 7:00 a.m. as students return
to begin the Fall 2020 semester. The South Entrance is now the only open gate
to campus. This semester, the campus is delivering online instruction for most
classes. A few programs with essential lab training that met approved safety
guidelines will continue classes on campus.
The Student Center, central to the college campus, would be a hub of activity
on this Monday morning. Students would be catching up with one another,
grabbing coffee, breakfast or a snack, and streaming to classes.
A peek inside the Student Center, missing its people. Silent for now, but not
forever, the Student Center is a place to meet others, hold community forums
and celebrate special events.
The first week of classes, the quad outside the Student Center hosts a Welcome
Tent where students can pick up literature, maps, ask questions of staff and faculty.
Just down the hall, the college bookstore offers current textbooks, essential items
and swag. The Welcome Center would have a line out the door. Students could chat
with Peer Mentors about schedules, meet with counselors, and get answers about
their applications, classes and financial aid.
Just across from the Student Center, the Math and Science Quad would be bustling
with students headed for class or checking into the STEM (Science, Technology,
Engineering, Math) tutoring center. These hallways, just a week prior, would have
been filled with STEM student interns presenting their summer research findings to
faculty and their advisors at the annual STEM Symposium. As STEM interns, Gavilan
students work with researchers at partnering universities and labs. They take on key
roles on projects, learn the latest research techniques, and collaborate with professors
and scientists, who become part of their professional network.
With the absence of humans on campus, different groups have made it home.
Wild turkeys roam across the Gilroy campus, though previously they stayed at
the perimeters. Ritual behavior is on full display, with puffed body feathers and
flared tails, as the mature toms signal dominance to the juvenile jakes.
Sycamore Lane spans the full Gavilan College campus, and would normally be
filled with students hustling to class. The trees were planted when the college
was built in the 1960s, and benches line the walkway. Throughout the year,
students gather under the trees to study, socialize and relax.
The Social Sciences building sits eerily quiet, as the 2020 Fall semester begins
with online instruction. With students absent from campus in order to follow public
safety guidelines, Gavilan College arranged to use the building as a COVID-19
testing site for the community.
The Arts, Theater and Humanities Quad, empty of people at the end of August. In
a normal semester, students would be running to theater classes and rehearsals,
writing, drawing, finishing ceramics projects and playing musical instruments.
Study areas abound across campus. A quiet spot for studying or meeting up with
friends is the Library Quad, tucked amid the Library, Writing Center and TV Studio.
The college was built on a former ranch and designed with specially chosen
specimen trees and shrubs. One favorite spot for students is the lower pond, a
magnet for ducks. The college has five ponds built to catch and divert water
from the hills and away from the buildings. Students use the entire campus as a
living classroom and laboratory.
Wildlife thrives in the lower pond. Some of the waterfowl and turtles live there
year round, while others drop by during annual migration. The swallows that visit
each year make their nests using the mud from its banks and consume thousands
of flying insects.
Two resident geese share gate duty with Gavilan College security, watching the
now limited traffic due to the temporary safety regulations in place. For now,
everyone needs pre-approved permission to visit campus.