West Virginia University is suspending in-person classes across all campuses after the upcoming spring break over concerns about the continued spread of the coronavirus, the school announced in a Tuesday night news release.
WVU students get out for the break this weekend. The break was to last a week, and most were supposed to return to class the following Monday, March 23.
Now, in-person classes will be canceled through March 30, at which time WVU will begin to “offer online class instruction or other alternative learning options,” the release said.
The release did not explain what the alternative learning options could be, and WVU News Director April Kaull said there would be no further comment Tuesday night.
WVU’s residence halls will close for the break at 7 p.m. Friday, and reopen “when WVU officials determine that they may reopen due to the institution’s response to COVID-19,” the school said elsewhere on its website. Some spring break housing will be available.
The release didn’t say whether students who rely on meal plans to eat will be able to access school dining facilities.
Shepherd University, in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, didn’t announce plans to suspend in-person classes Tuesday, but did issue a message to students saying “take your textbooks, course materials, laptops, tablets, and critical personal items with you in case the University alters the academic schedule or you are not able to return to campus precisely on March 23.” Shepherd’s spring break also begins this weekend.
“Shepherd’s Campus Health Task Force is preparing for the possibility that course instruction may have to move from the classroom to online,” the message said.
“If the University is forced to transition to online-only instruction and no in-person classroom teaching, continuing occupancy of residence halls may not be available for most resident students,” Shepherd’s message said. “Students with special need to remain in a residence hall in such circumstances should contact Residence Life. Food services options on campus may be significantly reduced.”
WVU provided a checklist of what students should take home. The school’s release said that, even though there are currently no reported cases of COVID-19 in the state, the school is concerned about students and employees — many of whom will head out of state — returning from the break to campus.
“This decision was made out of an abundance of caution to best protect [WVU] campuses and the communities at-large,” the release said.
The announcement came at the end of a day of colleges in surrounding states — including Ohio University, Ohio State University and Kentucky’s Berea College — announcing similar moves.
WVU’s announcement also said all school-related international and domestic travel is suspended “unless approved” through March 30.
In a letter to the campus, President Gordon Gee said, “An administrative team, along with local and state health officials, has been working diligently to identify ways to keep our campuses safe, as well as sharing precautionary measures individuals could take.
The University takes seriously its responsibility to protect our campuses during this uncertain time.”
The release said WVU is currently working on the online or other alternative learning options.
Provost Maryanne Reed said that “we are fortunate to have the resources and expertise to provide a high level of instruction remotely, and we will make every effort to ensure that our students don’t get behind in their coursework.”