West Virginia University, which had planned to start moving students into its Morgantown campus at the end of next week, announced Monday a delay to that and a shift to more online instruction.
The move doesn’t impact the WVU Institute of Technology campus in Beckley, nor the Potomac State College campus in Keyser.
In early June, WVU had announced plans to resume in-person classes Aug. 19, after it mostly went online-only this past spring.
But in July, Monongalia County, where WVU’s main campus in Morgantown is, had a surge of coronavirus cases. The majority of the cases were among 18- to 29-year-olds.
WVU President Gordon Gee, in a letter released to reporters late Monday afternoon, announced that the start of classes in Morgantown would move from Aug. 19 to Aug. 26. He noted “some professional programs may have alternative start dates.”
His letter also said “Health Sciences graduate and professional students will receive guidance from their specific deans and/or program directors. This includes the Charleston and Eastern campuses.”
Student move-in in Morgantown will now be from Aug. 15-22, he wrote.
Gee referenced that most “upper-division undergraduate courses” will become online-only or a “hybrid” mix of online and in-person, though the letter didn’t go into detail on this.
“We are hopeful that we can return more students to in-person instruction as the semester continues,” Gee wrote.
WVU had already scheduled more online or hybrid courses for this fall, and Rob Alsop, WVU’s vice president of strategic initiatives, said last week that 30% of the university’s courses were already online.
Gee wrote Monday that “the revised schedule will further reduce density, while preserving the on-campus experience for freshmen, graduate and professional students as much as possible.”
“As a result, the majority of upper-division undergraduate courses will be transitioned to online or hybrid delivery,” he wrote. “Hands-on courses, such as laboratory classes, clinical and studio classes, may still be offered face-to-face, as determined by each academic program. We are particularly focused on ensuring that our graduating seniors have the courses they need to successfully complete their degree programs.”
He said a final academic schedule will be released around Aug. 5
Gee said Gov. Jim Justice’s reinstatement of his bar closure order specifically in Monongalia County and the governor’s statewide mask-wearing mandate have contributed to a recent decline in cases.
“We have been testing our West Virginia University employees for the past week and out of 1,531 test results received thus far, only three have returned positive,” Gee wrote. “That is less than a 0.2% positivity rate. We are taking the necessary steps as a community to be safe.”
“However, there is concern among local and state public health officials, as well as University leadership, that a full return to campus in Morgantown would place both the campus and local communities at a greater risk for an increase in positive cases and transmission rates,” he wrote. “If this were to occur, the probability of an all online semester would escalate.”