Best in Class

Coachella Valley education leaders speak on the challenges caused by the pandemic, while shedding light on exciting future developments.

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While the coronavirus pandemic has forced schooling to take place from the homes of students rather than in the classroom, the experience has shown a light on the ability of Greater Palm Springs educational institutions to adapt to a virtual format.

Three education leaders from the Coachella Valley recently participated in a virtual discussion of the state of education and the challenges caused by the pandemic, while revealing what offerings lie ahead for students during the fourth webisode of “The Economic Future of the Coachella Valley” series. Joel Kinnamon, president of College of the Desert, was joined by Jake Zhu, dean at CSUSB Palm Desert, and Sandra Lyon, superintendent of Palm Springs Unified School District.

The nine-part webinar series is a Palm Springs Life event in partnership with the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership and SBEMP Attorneys, and sponsored by Timo’s Air Conditioning and Heating.

• REGISTER: Webisode 5 and future discussions in the series, visit You can also view each of there webisodes on the Palm Springs Life YouTube page.

Lyon, whose district will present its 2021 plan of moving to hybrid learning (virtual and in-person) to the board of education in November, says the pandemic has meant implementing non-traditional teaching methods to reach students on their computer screens.

“I think teachers are going to be able to be a little bit more open to bringing in new technologies than maybe some of us would have been 20 years ago,” Lyon says. “And then I also think the other idea about brick and mortar is meetings and the ability to pull people together for us as an institution will be opened up forever. We've seen we can get people to meetings, we can have conferences with parents, we can do things in a way that's easier than we've been doing it when we required everybody to be physically in the space, so I think some of those things are going to be held over.”

While instruction remains virtual at College of the Desert this fall semester, the future of learning is creating a bigger buzz with the building of a new satellite campus in Palm Springs. Kinnamon says the Palm Springs location is “shaping up to be a place like no place ever.”

“The new campus will embrace and re-imagine the midcentury design aesthetic that is synonymous with the College of the Desert,” Cinnamon says, “while providing a state-of-the-art learning environment that will serve as a regional workforce innovation center, where students can learn and train for jobs and operators, and the areas of digital media and film, hospitality, culinary arts, healthcare, architecture, and sustainability.”

Kinnamon revealed the campus will feature a learning hotel, restaurant and kitchen, and culinary Institute, and will partner with Cal Poly Pomona School of Architecture and the Palm Springs Architecture Alliance “that serves as an example of how the new campus will educate and train students for next generation jobs and careers.”

“The campus will be designed to be flexible, innovative, and responsive to the changing economic development and workforce needs of the Coachella Valley,” Cinnamon says, “and as an education destination for people from across the country and across the world. So we're very, very excited about the endless possibilities it brings.”

At CSUSB Palm Desert, which was tabbed as one of the best colleges in the west by The Princeton Review, Zhu says the pandemic has provided some valuable lessons on deriving the best from technology.

“First, we will rely more universal approaches, using information and communication technologies to support our operations and academic program deliveries,” Zhu says. “Second, we will see more flexible programs that are now a combination of delivering those that include in-class instruction online and hybrid. The content of our academic programs should include the understanding and practice of working virtually so that future students will be trained to function successfully in the virtual environment. Finally, we'll never be able to accurately predict when we'll face a similar event, or challenge like the COVID-19 at a higher ed institution. We never know what is going to happen next, but it's always good to be ready for whatever happens.”

VIDEO: View Webisode 4 on education.