The College of the Redwoods board of trustees have scheduled a special meeting in Fort Bragg on Feb. 17, and are asking for additional information on possible alternatives, including redistricting, after receiving a recommendation this week to suspend operations at satellite campuses in Fort Bragg and Garberville.
After several community members, including current students of the Mendocino County campus, stepped forward Tuesday to ask the board to reconsider shuttering the campus in the fall, trustee Barbara Rice brought up the idea of cutting additional courses and letting Mendocino take over the campus for the fall semester, or until a final decision is made.
Special trustee Thomas Henry suggested that community members or Mendocino College could initiate a petition to move the campus center into their jurisdiction.
"If a petition was submitted, there would be a series of public hearings with the Committee of Reorganization and then appeals could be made through the state Board of Education, who will be the deciding factor," Henry said. "This could take as long as a year or more, though."
Rice said she believed the Mendocino community was ready to begin the redistricting process, if the board provided direction.
"That seems like a board action, and we would need more information before making a decision," said board president Colleen Mullery.
Under the plan suggested by College of the Redwoods president and superintendent Kathy Smith, services at the Fort Bragg location and the Garberville campus would be suspended, but she said that does not mean it will be a permanent closure.
"We are not taking this decision lightly," Smith said. "My job is to make sure that College of the Redwoods remains a viable institution, and the suggestion to suspend operations was to save costs."
Smith said that lower full-time enrollment numbers also played a factor in the decision.
Emily Scott, a current student at the Mendocino campus who began classes in fall 2010, said courses are often filled to the point where there are waiting lists.
"The suggestion to suspend the campus because of enrollment is unfair, because I've seen it where there's no one there to enroll students," she said.
Laura Smith, a current Mendocino campus student and single parent, said she was very disheartened about the possible suspension of classes, which would leave her with few opportunities for continuing her education.
"I want our community to be able to have a voice, and to think my daughter may not have a college to go to is sad," she said.
Fort Bragg mayor Dave Turner said he would like the board to support the students because taking classes at both campuses is not a viable option.
"We're scared and not sure what to do, so please work with us," he said.
Melissa Simon can be reached at 441-0508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.