LCAD plans to restart in-person classes this fall

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A sculpture by Richard MacDonald stands outside the Laguna College of Art + Design. (file photo)

Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) plans to reopen its classrooms to students on Aug. 30, offering relief to students who have been learning remotely for nearly a year, officials said Wednesday.

LCAD announced last March that classes would move online for at least two weeks amid an outbreak of COVID-19 in Orange County. Like many educational institutions, the college decided to indefinitely extend this format to follow CDC and state health guidelines.

LCAD’s faculty and staff are eager to return to campus, Hélène Garrison, chief operating officer and provost at LCAD, said in a press release.

“If there is any gift to be found from this pandemic it is the even deeper commitment and appreciation of LCAD’s mission to support our students,” Garrison said in a press release. “Every conversation and decision has focused on how we can work with our students one-on-one to meet their needs, and we look forward to the day when we can do so face to face, in person.”

The decision to plan for mostly in-person fall classes has been carefully discussed and reviewed by the college’s health and safety committee, which includes key staff from campus security, faculty, student services, and human resources.

As the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses injected in people’s arms increases and new cases drop, LCAD has safety measures to meet or exceed state mandates for schools. These include social distancing, proper use of masks, sanitizing surfaces, barriers, and touch-free sinks.

Kayla Lemus, a sophomore majoring in Experimental Animation, cannot wait to return to campus.

“I had one semester at LCAD before we went into lockdown, and a lot of my creativity blossomed and I met so many people,” she said. “It was my best time so far at LCAD.”

Although she hasn’t returned to campus, Lemus moved back to Orange County after living with family in Texas to re-engage with the LCAD community. She is actively working with her fellow LCAD students to launch a virtual art market, normally held on campus later this spring.

LCAD leaders continue to closely monitor public health guidelines and are prepared to transition to online or hybrid learning if necessary.

The college’s faculty have done an amazing job teaching classes remotely, said Michael Savas, dean of undergraduate studies and chair of LCAD Illustration.

“They are extremely excited to return to LCAD’s beautiful campus in the canyon to experience the collaborative interaction and wonderment of seeing their students being creative in the classroom,” Savas said in a press release. “Students yearn to experience the social interaction that only the College on-campus experience provides, including extracurricular activities, social and academic events.”

This spring, six students are living in individual apartments and students are required to schedule studio space, the LCAD Fabrication Lab and other on-campus facilities.

LCAD administrators won’t require students to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to in-person classes, Garrison said.

“We strongly encourage all to receive it when available to their population group and if it is recommended by their personal physician,” she said. “We know of a handful of LCAD faculty and staff who have been vaccinated, but we are not keeping records since we are not mandating the vaccine.”

A majority of surveyed students, faculty, and staffers supported a return to campus with regulations for the community’s health and safety.

“Even though we have done a fantastic job of recreating parts of the in-person experience, nothing can replace the relationship and connections LCAD’s small class sizes provide,” said Daniel Adoff, adjunct professor of Visual Communications. “I personally look forward to being energized by the students and sharing my Hawaiian shirts in person.”

Rachelle Chuang, an adjunct professor who teaches package design and print processes, is also supporting students’ return to the campus.

“In-person teaching creates a better class community which fosters empathy, support and human connection,” Chuang said. “These are essential to a student’s mental health and well-being.”

LCAD will continue to offer online classes this fall.

David Corona, a senior majoring in Graphic Design and Digital Media, is graduating this spring. and will collaborative dynamic of his in-person classes.

“I’d be on campus from morning to night, working with my classmates and instructors, going out for coffee and hanging out in open classrooms,” he said. “The work we accomplished in classes like Vans Lab and Package Design was very craft heavy and the process was most effective when we could work together as a team.”

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