VCCCD Board of Trustees declare emergency conditions and allocate $2 million of funds to address COVID-19 concerns

Chancellor+Greg+Gillespie%2C+left%2C+speaks+to+board+chair+Bernardo+Perez+during+the+special+meeting+on+Tuesday%2C+March+18%2C+in+Camarillo%2C+Calif.+Photo+credit%3A+Ryan+Bough

Chancellor Greg Gillespie, left, speaks to board chair Bernardo Perez during the special meeting on Tuesday, March 18, in Camarillo, Calif. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

By Ryan Bough

On Tuesday, March 17, the Ventura County Community College District Board of Trustees held a special meeting to discuss the effects of COVID-19 at the community college campuses as well as the district office. This meeting came one day after Chancellor Greg Gillespie sent out an email to the faculty, staff and students of the VCCCD, addressing that there will be no face-to-face classes at any of the campuses for the rest of the spring or summer semester.

The board started off with public comments which brought them to a discussion on pushing back online registration for classes. Gillespie talked about the possibility of moving back priority registration and how it could benefit students.

“I think the key thing is: When can we have a remote technology set up so the counselors and support people can help these priority registration students register in a virtual format?” Gillespie posed.

Chancellor Greg Gillespie gives an update on COVID-19 to the board and public at the special meeting on Tuesday, March 18, in Camarillo, Calif.
Chancellor Greg Gillespie gives an update on COVID-19 to the board and public at the special meeting on Tuesday, March 18, in Camarillo, Calif. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

The meeting then moved to agenda item 2.01, which was a vote to revise the policy that the chair of the board or a majority of the board members can call a special or emergency meeting. The revision comes from California Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order N-25-20 on March 4, which states that a local legislative body may hold public meetings using teleconferencing as long as the teleconference is accessible by members of the public. The motion passed unanimously.

The board then moved to its second agenda item where it passed a resolution that declared emergency conditions exist at the Ventura County Community College District and granted authorization to take actions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flyers posted outside the VCCCD Board meeting room asking the public to wait to be called in an effort to practice social distancing at the special board meeting on Tuesday, March 18, in Camarillo, Calif.
Flyers posted outside the VCCCD Board meeting room asking the public to wait to be called in an effort to practice social distancing at the special board meeting on Tuesday, March 18, in Camarillo, Calif. Photo credit: Gavin Woods

In the resolution, the board granted up to $2 million from the reserves to be available for emergency purposes during the COVID-19 outbreak. There are currently no reported cases of COVID-19 at any of the VCCCD campuses or district offices. However, there is currently one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ventura County, with 10 other presumptive cases awaiting CDC confirmation.

Gillespie expressed the importance of this resolution and how it can help decision making moving forward.

“It really formally acknowledges the emergency and it gets us into that emergency status and provides the authority for me to make a decision to close the colleges or to take the action and close the colleges,” Gillespie explained.

Trustee Josh Chancer brought up the concern over ensuring accountability with the $2 million emergency fund.

“At some point, I would like either some accountability or some oversight,” Chancer continued, requesting detailed purchase orders. “Because to me, it’s $2 million as a blank check, and I’m just not comfortable.”

Trustee Dianne McKay talked about the importance of having the funds approved so that it would be available to the college presidents almost immediately.

“I would like the college presidents and our Chancellor to know that they can do something if they have to, and do it quickly while the equipment’s available and not have to take 24 hours to get a vote from us. And then the equipment’s not available anymore and our students suffer,” McKay said.

Trustee Dianne McKay addressees her concerns to Moorpark College's Interim president Julius Sokenu about Americans Teaching Zoo with the possible closure of the campuses at the special meeting on Tuesday, March 18, at the district office in Camarillo, Calif.
Trustee Dianne McKay addressees her concerns to Moorpark College's Interim president Julius Sokenu about Americans Teaching Zoo with the possible closure of the campuses at the special meeting on Tuesday, March 18, at the district office in Camarillo, Calif. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

There was some concern with the closure of the college not being possible, especially due to America’s Teaching Zoo which is located on Moorpark College’s campus. McKay also spoke about the importance of approving these emergency funds in regards to the Exotic Animal Training and Management program.

“Moorpark College has a zoo. I mean, there’s a lot of animals there and people that have to take care of them that alone could be an enormous sum that in an emergency situation has to be dealt with,” McKay stated. “Unless they can find a place to put all those animals, I don’t think foreclosure of Moorpark is an option.”

America’s Teaching Zoo holds around 130 animals at one time, from small reptiles to large mammals including lions and tigers.

As of now, all VCCCD campuses will remain open for essential personnel only. Additional Information can be found on VCCCD Alerts.