Pomona to start spring online, aims to return some students in March

The Smith Campus Center, a tan building with a red roof, is pictured. Mountains and a clocktower can be seen in the background.
Pomona College will begin spring 2021 with remote learning, President G. Gabrielle Starr announced Friday. (Courtesy of Pomona College)


Pomona College will start the semester with remote learning, college president G. Gabrielle Starr announced Friday, citing county restrictions. But the college is still seeking county approval to bring students back later in the spring semester.

Regardless of whether they return, though, students will be given a spring break. Starr announced a week-long spring break from March 8 to 15, a reversal from the 5Cs’ previous plan to eliminate the break, which sparked pushback from students.

She also reaffirmed the college’s intent to bring students back to campus at some point in the spring semester, saying that the college will use the break to return a limited number of students to campus if allowed by county officials. No student would be required to return to campus, she said. 

The announcement comes just days after Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials unveiled new county guidance Dec. 2, which requires that institutions of higher education stay closed for the time being. The guidance was highly anticipated by the 5Cs, who said they were waiting for an update to unveil spring plans. 

Starr pushed back against LACDPH in the email, calling the county’s approach “increasingly at odds with those of neighboring counties, as well as states and municipalities across the nation that have allowed colleges to carefully reopen campuses.”

On Thursday, Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver announced that none of the undergraduate Claremont Colleges would bring students back to campus at the start of the spring semester due to public health guidelines.

Pomona announced in October that classes would remain online for the spring semester whether or not students were permitted to be on campus.

Starr said in the email that she has been meeting with public health officials and members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to “advocate for our students and higher education in general in the face of learning loss and growing challenges for the most vulnerable students across our county.”

Starr added that she has been pressing for a “waiver or pilot program to allow small colleges like Pomona to return a portion of their student populations this spring.”

LA County has created a waiver for higher education institutions, but as of now, it would only allow a limited number of approved colleges to create a “bubble” environment of up to 500 students on campus. Public health officials have made it clear that this pilot concept will continue only if the county’s adjusted case count drops below 10 per 100,000 county residents for two weeks.

Starr said Pomona will apply for this waiver as soon as applications open.

Starr’s announcement comes after LA County imposed a new stay-at-home starting Nov. 30 following a surge in cases in the area.

LA County recently recorded the highest ever daily increase in cases — almost 8,000. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has also topped the previous peak. 


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