Thousands of community college students in San Diego had their first day of school Monday via distance learning due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“It is weird to walk across campus and it’s empty," Wes Lundburg, president of Miramar College, told NBC 7. "You know classes are happening, you know students are out there, you know the staff and faculty are all at work, but it’s empty. And it just feels strange.”
The majority of classes offered at San Diego City, Mesa and Miramar colleges will be held virtually during the fall semester, with the exception of some. Classes with technical labs, for first responders and programs that require hands-on instruction will still be held in person with health orders in mind.
Gerson Urtecho, a student of Miramar College's fire academy, told NBC 7 that not being able to be close to his peers is strange.
“It’s kind of hard to see everybody. You want to smile to people but it’s a little weird because you can’t do it," Urtecho said. "You want to start linking up with people who are really going to be like family in the long run.”
At the school's fire academy, students will be screened for their health each morning before instruction begins and students are ordered to wear a facial covering and keep 6 feet apart from one another. If one student contracts the coronavirus, the program will come to a halt for two weeks.
“We look forward to welcoming 60,000 students to our college programs and another 40,000 students to our adult education programs this year for a full range of instruction and support services despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” district Chancellor Constance Carroll said in a statement.
San Diego Community College District officials announced in May that they intend to hold classes online for the fall semester.
Services offered at schools were also moved online. Access to mental health counseling, tutoring and financial aid assistance are available on each college's website.
Last semester, the school district quickly converted more than 6,000 classes to online learning in March and instruction has been held virtually since then.
It is unclear if SDCCD’s Spring 2021 semester will be held online.