Basic needs and computers discussed at PCC meeting

The first COVID-19 case in the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) was confirmed by Pierce College President Alexis Montevirgen over a Zoom meeting with the Pierce College Council (PCC) on April 2.

The confirmed case is linked to an essential employee, Montevirgen said. Pierce has not had any direct cases related to the campus.

“Our hearts go out and our thoughts go out for the quick recovery of that employee,” Montevirgen said. “The best thing you can do is to stay at home, and that’s just not for the interest of the college, but it’s for the interest of everyone and for the interest of all during this crisis.”

Brahma Pantry and Basic Needs Program Lead D’arcy Corwin said she and her team are coming up with a plan to send care packages out to students who need assistance. She said her team has community partners that have been getting immediate services to the students.

“One is the college mission coalition, which has helped get Uber Eats meals to students for free as well as our Living Praise Christian church collaboration,” Corwin said. “They also have a care package system, where I can fill out the form on behalf of the student to get those essentials sent to the students’ homes.”

Corwin and her team are also developing a new program as part of the Basic Needs Program in connection to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). She said the company has assigned a peer navigator to the campus.

“If anybody’s aware of a student who is experiencing homelessness, we can connect with them,” Corwin said. “There is a space available for them where they can go and work with a housing navigator.” 

LAHSA is offering students who use this resource breakfast, lunches, hygiene kits and showers.

For students who have applied for the Emergency Laptop Scholarship and have gotten accepted, Montevirgen said LACCD is distributing laptops as fast as they are received.

“There’s a holdup of them distributing any Chromebooks that they currently have,” Montevirgen said. “It’s a matter of getting and obtaining [those] that are coming in.”

In addition, he said there will no longer be any drive-thru pickups due to the health and safety issues associated with it. He said students will be contacted and asked for their address so that the laptops can be shipped to them.

“It’s not that there is any undue delay in terms of getting as many of these,” Montevirgen said. “As you can imagine, everyone throughout the state is trying to order laptops, Chromebooks and any type of technological equipment, let alone community colleges. LAUSD also has the same problem and same issues.”

Montevirgen said he was told to expect 500 units a week and said it’s not at the rate of the 9,000 applications already in. He also said it would take several weeks before they can address the applications.

Vice President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters said about 8,000 computers have been donated to the District, which distributes the equipment. 

He said they recognize there will be a shortage of computers. He added that the best opportunity for students, as of now, is to complete the laptop scholarship application so that the district knows where the gaps are. 

Dixon-Peters addressed how students can be supported if laptops run out.

“We have the E.W. [Excused Withdrawal] process in place where they will not be penalized for dropping because they don’t have the technology or the support to be able to complete the course,” Dixon-Peters said. “That is the reality of what we’re faced with at this point in time. We’re trying our best to give more support. But it is, unfortunately, the reality in terms of the inequities that we are faced with in terms of our students not having technology.”

Vice President of Academic Policy Michael Gend said he has already purchased four laptops and sent them to his students. He said he has two faculty in his department that are donating money to buy their students laptops.

“I know that’s not going to be a solution if the number that we’re looking at is like hundreds and hundreds of computers that we need,” Gend said. “I personally feel super uncomfortable if my students’ inability to succeed in the class right now is the lack of a computer.”