Chico State students, parents call fall semester plan 'confusing and frustrating'

CHICO, Calif. (KGO) -- It's hardly the prediction many Chico State students and parents wanted to hear, more than six months ahead of the start of the fall semester -- that so few classes will be in-person.

"Right now 30% is a solid number," said Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson in a video address last week.

"We have to be out of purple tier," said Hutchinson, speaking of Butte County's current COVID-19 tier. "Once we're out of purple tier, we believe that we can safely have 30% of our students in class on campus. That's 800 to 1,200 classes a week. That's roughly 5,000 students on our campus at any one time."

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Chico State's current enrollment is more than 17,000 students.

Vincent Evangelist, a freshman engineering student, moved to Chico from the Bay Area to an apartment since the dorms are closed, taking all of his classes online.

"It's just confusing and frustrating," Evangelist said of Hutchinson's announcement. "As of right now, with all the predictions, I don't see why we couldn't be 100% open with masks on."

The projection of 20-30% in-person classes at Chico State comes as COVID-19 case numbers in California are dropping dramatically and vaccinations are underway.

This week many of Chico's own staff and faculty will get their second dose of the vaccine and most students could be vaccinated by the end of summer, according to projections by Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Joe Biden.

But at Chico, administrators say smaller classrooms and older buildings still make it hard for them to plan for full capacity, and 6-foot distancing, even by August.

"We're currently creating some kind of document that will say 'Hey, here's what your day is going to look like in fall,'" said Michael Guzzi, Chico State's Associate Vice-President for Facilities Management, "to try to highlight to those parents and students how exciting is to be in our area, while you may have only a couple of in-person classes."

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Joseph Castro, the chancellor of the larger CSU system and its 23 campuses has set a more aggressive goal.

"That is going to vary differently on the campuses," explained Michael Uhlenkamp, a CSU spokesperson. "That's going to depend on what the spread of the virus looks like and the availability of vaccinations in the counties, but that is the goal to have the majority of those activities and instruction in person for the coming fall term."

Chico State's announcement for their modest re-opening comes just as many high school students are trying to decide where they'll attend college next fall.

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"Twenty to 30% is not even close to half. They've got to do better. They have to do better," said Chico State parent Eva Evangelist. "They're young kids, that are trying to get an education that will impact their entire future and their careers."

Vincent Evangelist told us Chico was his first choice, but now he's considering transferring.

"I wanted to have more of the college experience you know," he said. "I don't know what else I could do besides look other places."
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