Nothing is quite as refreshing as an ice-cold lemonade in the summer sun.
And despite the heat, students and faculty filled Pierce College’s Botanical Garden last Wednesday to share refreshments and socialize with Interim President Aracely Aguiar.
The event gave students the opportunity to meet Aguiar, who was appointed in July, and receive in-person services which included the Information Desk, Admissions and Records and the Financial Aid Office.
Executive Assistant to the President Malina Koani said that Aguiar initially came up with the idea to have the event in the garden due to her love of gardening.
“She had walked through [the Botanical Garden] before and she thought it would be a really nice place to first meet the students who attend Pierce, so it just kind of blossomed from there,” Koani said.
After most of 2020 being virtual, it is common for students, like Emani Norwood, to not have explored the campus.
“I thought it was nice to get to see, look around and get more familiar with where things might be,” Norwood said. “I thought everybody here that I met today was very nice and outgoing.”
Norwood said that she was a bit concerned with the mask mandate, but knew it was for the students’ well-being.
“I think it’s a good idea to try to make sure every student is safe, and that they have less chances of potentially catching COVID and the delta variant,” Norwood said. “The only thing that is a little bit of a concern is social distancing and how hot you could get wearing the face coverings.”
Aguiar said that Pierce has been implementing different safety measures including having smaller class sizes, high level air filters in the classrooms and personal protective equipment available in the classrooms.
“The board is also working on how we can establish guidelines and policy so that the students, faculty and staff are safe and so that we can deliver education in a safe manner,” Aguiar said.
Aguiar also said that the school is in the process of implementing a system that would make testing available every week.
“Abiding by all of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health guidelines is the highest priority here,” Aguiar said.
Student Keon Abrisham, said that he believes it’s important to maintain the safety procedures despite some of the downsides to wearing masks.
“It can be a little difficult sometimes because sometimes you just want to get a breath of fresh air,” Abrisham said. “But honestly for the safety of everyone, I don’t mind it. Even though it can be somewhat of an inconvenience, it’s worth it. You don’t know what could happen.”
The Los Angeles Community College District will now require their students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular tests starting this fall. Also, they must show proof of negative results.
LACCD joins the UC and CSU system who required vaccination or weekly testing last month for those going to campus.
“These policies strengthen the Board’s position that the health and safety of our employees and students remains the District’s priority,” LACCD Board of Trustees President Steve Veres said in a press release. “The policies, complemented by our improved ventilation systems and increased sanitization standards, provide our highest assurance against the spread of the coronavirus and its variants.”
Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez said they must follow the science.
“Medical experts have made it clear the most effective weapons against this disease are facial coverings and vaccinations,” Rodriguez said. “We have ramped up our supplies for face coverings and we will ensure that our colleges remain active as vaccination and testing sites to make it easy for our students and employees to get vaccinated.”
LACCD Director of Communications William Boyer said he hopes students will take the opportunity to get vaccinated.
“Our students are eligible to get up to $150 cash on their student bank card if they get the vaccine. We have incentives out there,” Boyer said. “The board policy that was approved is another step towards trying to make sure people understand the urgency with which health officials locally, in the state and the nation all agree that vaccinations are an important weapon in fighting the pandemic.”
Interim Athletic Director Susan Armenta in an email wrote they are encouraging their student-athletes to get vaccinated.
Armenta said they are testing them once a week. She mentioned the district needs to define what they mean by regularly.
“Does that mean more than once a week? If so, I feel they should be responsible for facilitating that,” Armenta wrote. “Our Athletics program does not have the resources to accommodate testing more frequently. We would need to hire more staff.”
Interim President Aracely Aguiar said LA County Department of Public Health visited the campus.
“We were in compliance, however they made some recommendations to have bigger signage and to put in more fans. They wanted larger fans so it could give more air circulation,” Aguiar said. “It was mostly about increasing the airflow in the area.”
Aguiar added, “They came in and looked at our facilities and it wasn’t so much that we were doing anything wrong, we just needed to add a few things here and there.”
UPDATE #1 on 7/15 at 4:51 p.m.
Interim Athletic Director Susan Armenta in an email said they are working with the district administration overseeing Safety and Emergency Services and with the LA County Department of Public Health.
“The nature of basketball is inherently high-risk for exposure due to the close contact, contact with equipment, and indoor participation, but the college has implemented improved ventilation in the gym, improved signage with reminders for social distancing and hand sanitization – which will be applicable to the other sports – whether indoors or outdoors,” Armenta wrote.
Armenta added, “We’re now conducting weekly testing and continuing with our pre-screening protocols. Lastly, there will be greater incentives for student-athletes to get vaccinated, with our own mobile vaccination clinic scheduled for athletics later this month.”
Four student athletes and three members of the Pierce College men’s basketball team have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the temporary closure of the South Gym.
Head coach Charles White said they had to get everyone quarantined, and that the gym was closed to be disinfected.
“We had to pause and quarantine, but everyone is doing better now,” White said. “Our plans are to be back by July 20.”
White said that when one of his players tested positive for the virus, the whole team and staff got tested. He also said that some players lost their sense of taste and smell, but are doing fine now.
White said that despite this outbreak, preparations are still going for when the season starts in November.
“We have three more weeks of summer school and then we’ll take a break,” White said. “On Aug. 30, we will resume and get ready. I’m not sure how many fans will be allowed to attend, but we will be happy to have crowds back.”
Former athletic director Bob Lofrano said the outbreak is unfortunate.
“Unfortunately, that’s the world we live in right now. Your best bet is to get vaccinated,” Lofrano said.