MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Merced College announced Saturday that it is moving most of its fall 2020 classes online amid the virus pandemic.

Currently scheduled lab classes, which the college said is difficult to offer completely online, will continue to be held in-person with social distancing guidelines, required face mask usage and/or other mitigation strategies in place, said spokeswoman Jill Cunningham. Some general education course may also be offered in-person where social distancing is possible.

The decision was made in consultation with college officials upon guidance from Merced County health officials.

Dr. Chris Vitelli, Superintendent and President, said the college district, which governs the college, has been monitoring the pandemic with the hopes of accommodating both in-person and online classes in the fall semester.

“This is a novel virus and we are literally learning new information hour-by-hour,” said Vitelli. “Through it all, we have worked tirelessly to implement the most responsible solutions and path forward. The Board of Trustees and I are proud of how the students, faculty, and staff have responded in this unprecedented time. Their efforts have been extraordinary and it’s what makes Merced College a stand-out institution of higher learning.”

Most college employees will continue to work from home, while academic and student support services will be offered to students remotely through the fall 2020 term. Essential staff and other employees will work on-site as needed.

The college said it had converted 90% of its spring classes to online in March when initial statewide stay-at-home order was issued.

Hundreds of students have been provided with mini-desktops and other equipment so they could continue their studies from home. Also, thousands in emergency grants have been given to students to mitigate financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.