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SIGNAL PEAK — After stating last month that it planned to reopen campuses this spring, Central Arizona College confirmed that the college would reopen to the public on May 3, albeit with social distancing protocols still in place.

During a meeting on Tuesday, the Governing Board announced a virtual graduation ceremony would take place on May 14 at 7 p.m.

“Staff and faculty were thrown a big curveball, and they hit it out of the park,” said board member Dan Miller on CAC’s planning for opening the college back up. “There were a lot of struggles and conversations that went on, and it has not gone unnoticed.”

College President Jackie Elliott, who praised the administration’s “team effort,” said that the school would continue in virtual modality for the summer but also would be working toward adding in-person classes by the fall.

As for the spring and summer, even after the campuses open, classes will remain virtual save for those that require hands-on learning.

The board also approved a preliminary budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year that would not increase tuition. Although Chief Financial Officer Chris Wodka said the college has increased academic and course fees over the past few years, CAC’s tuition remains below the state average.

Dean of CAC’s science and engineering program Jeff Bunkelmann gave a presentation on class enrollment. Bunkelmann praised the school’s virtual learning options and suggested that while many students didn’t like online-only learning, hybrid classes would end up being a popular option.

“We have had a very grand learning experience during pandemic,” Bunkelmann said. “What our faculty have been able to do is develop curriculum and learn new skills to teach online. This ability will carry over into the next year and year after that and going forward.”

The Signal Peak Campus is still a testing and vaccination site for COVID-19. The board formally approved the “Drive48” moniker for the new training center that opened earlier this month, as well as a name for the baseball field, which will be formally announced in May.

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Aaron Dorman is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more. He can be reached at adorman@pinalcentral.com.

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