The Hartnell Community College District (HCCD) Board of Trustees voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize Superintendent/President Patricia Hsieh to “take any and all actions necessary to ensure the continuation of public education and the health and safety of the students and employees” across the district.

As a result, Hartnell will close its campuses except for a few essential operations on the Main Campus in Salinas, complying with the shelter-in-place order issued March 17 for all Monterey County residents. The college continues to prepare for a switch to online education on March 23, after Spring Break this week.

Following a closed session to discuss labor relations, the board also voted unanimously to continue paying all Hartnell employees as budgeted while Monterey County remains under a shelter-in-place order through April 7.

This applies to employees who must report to work for necessary on-campus functions, those who will be telecommuting and those whose jobs can’t be performed remotely.

Under the board’s resolution, employees who are unable to telecommute will remain “on call” and be subject to administrative direction to return to work if needed or be assigned work during their regular hours.

The board opened its meeting by approving a resolution titled “Declaring Emergency Conditions and Taking Additional Action in Response to the Threat of COVID-19,” which allows Hsieh to complete the transition to online instruction and student support.

Faculty are using online training resources as they prepare to deliver distance education using such tools as videos, teleconferencing and digital texts. At the same time, student service staff – nearly all working remotely – will provide counseling, tutoring, disability and other vital services through online communications.

Hsieh described the two board actions as an expression of trustees “powerful commitment to students’ education and the well-being of our employees while we all work together to cope with the evolving local impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Our college will continue to work collegially with employee bargaining units to address their concerns while upholding our leading value of always putting ‘Students First,’” she said. “As always, our highest priority is to protect the health and safety of students, employees and visitors.”

Because the Monterey County shelter-in-place order extends to April 7, Hartnell will continue its plan to provide online education and student support at least through that date, not April 5, as previously announced.

A decision on whether to continue distance education beyond that date will be made next week, Hsieh said.

At the close of Wednesday’s two-hour meeting, Board of Trustees President Aurelio Salazar Jr. and other trustees expressed appreciation for Hartnell employees’ commitment to the health and safety of students, employees and visitors, as well as to students’ continued education.

“The action that the board took demonstrates our commitment to employees and their families,” said Trustee Erica Padilla-Chavez, who represents District 6 in south Monterey County.

“We recognize that we don’t just employ individuals; we employ families. Given the public health emergency, it’s going to require that we apply virtues that we don’t necessarily carry every day, because we’re going to be tested in ways that we’ve never been tested before.”