In response to rising concerns over the spread of COVID-19 on campus, the Long Beach Community College District will switch to temporary remote classes beginning next week according to a school spokesperson.

The move away from most face-to-face classes will start March 18 but how long the switch would be in place is still unknown said Josh Castellanos, the school’s executive director of public affairs and marketing. The announcement comes the same day that city officials reported a possible fourth confirmed case of the virus in the city and the World Health Organization officially categorized COVID-19 as a pandemic.

Castellanos said that the anticipated April 13 return date for students is still part of the discussion but the move to online teaching would last for at least a few weeks and having the switch last through the end of the semester has not been ruled out yet.

Classes will go on as planned for the rest of this week and the start of next week before moving predominantly online starting Wednesday. A list of classes that might still be taught in person is being developed, he said.

All events through April 12 that are sponsored by the college where the public has been invited to attend will also be postponed. The lone exceptions to this are the March 25 meeting of the board of trustees and a March 16 meeting of the college’s personnel commission.

The two-campus district, which includes the Liberal Arts Campus in East Long Beach and the Pacific Coast Campus in Central Long Beach has about 25,000 students enrolled.

“Safety and health are our top priorities,” Castellanos said. “We want this to be as painless as possible but there might be a few bumps.”

LBCC’s decision comes after Cal State Long Beach’s announcement earlier this week canceling in-person classes. The Los Angeles Community College District announced today that it would also be switching to online instruction effective March 18.

“The safety of our students and staff are invariably paramount and it’s only prudent that we take the utmost safety precautions to protect our biggest asset, our human capital,” said Trustee Sunny Zia.

Castellanos said the class would be taught through the learning platform, Canvas, and would also use video conferencing to connect students to instructors. The district would take measures to try and ensure that all students had access to computers while the campus remains closed to in-person instruction.

The decision to switch to online instruction comes at a unique time for the district after its board of trustees fired Superintendent-President Reagan Romali March 4 after Romali and members of the board traded accusations of wrongdoing and corruption.

With a vacancy at the top, the decision to issue the switch to online instruction fell to the Vice President of Academic Affairs Kathleen Scott.

“The good news is that there are still four vice presidents that are dedicated to making sure that everything keeps working,” Castellanos said.

In a statement the college said it has also begun bringing in extra cleaning crews to deep clean areas that people on campus touch frequently. It has also created a portion of its website for students and faculty to seek out resources and tech guides while the college deals with COVID-19.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.