Va. universities moving classes online amid coronavirus worries
More than 15 colleges and universities, including Virginia Tech and U.Va., are canceling in-person classes, likely for the rest of the semester.
UPDATED 6 A.M. MARCH 13
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across Virginia, more than 15 colleges and universities across the commonwealth — including the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Virginia Commonwealth University and James Madison University — are moving all classes online.
A student at Longwood University, which is closing the university until March 18, has tested positive for the virus, according to the university.
The World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic Wednesday. There are more than 127.000 novel coronavirus cases worldwide, with nearly 4,400 deaths reported, as of Thursday morning. More than 1,300 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed across the United States, with at least 38 deaths reported.
Virginia now has nine verified cases of the novel coronavirus.
Here’s the latest information from Virginia universities and public schools:
Longwood University President Taylor Reveley IV posted a message on the university’s website that a student there has tested presumptively positive, which would be the state’s 10th case of COVID-19. The Virginia Department of Health has not yet made an announcement regarding this case.
All in-person classes and public events at Longwood have been canceled through March 18, he added.
“We have just been informed that the results of that test have been returned and are sharing immediately that those results are a presumptive positive case,” Reveley wrote. “The student continues to self-quarantine pending further testing at the CDC to confirm the test. Based on their conversations with the student earlier this week about their brief time on campus following spring break, VDH continues to believe even with the presumptive positive test there remains a low generalized risk to our community. VDH has begun reaching out to those who may have been in close contact with the student to evaluate whether any further steps such as assessment, self-quarantine or testing may be necessary.”
A group of a dozen Regent faculty and students are self-quarantining for the next two weeks due to having attended conferences where people tested recently positive for COVID-19. “To the best of our knowledge, there have been no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 at Regent University,” the school said in a news release. “To our knowledge, no individuals have come into contact with COVID-19, or have any symptoms of the virus.” (Two groups of Regent students and staff attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, held in late February and early March respectively.)
Regent is continuing to hold classes on campus, however students who don’t wish to return to campus can complete their classes online if they contact the school’s Office of Advising by March 16.
George Mason University
George Mason is extending spring break through March 20 and will be moving to online classes from March 23 to at least April 3, according to a statement from the university’s interim president, Anne Holton.
Holton encouraged students to stay off campus but is keeping residence halls and dining halls open “for students who cannot return home.”
There are no known cases on Mason’s campus, Holton added.
Virginia Tech announced Wednesday afternoon that it is transitioning to online and remote instruction as of March 23 for all undergraduate and graduate students for the remainder of the spring semester. This includes Tech’s Northern Virginia campuses. Tech has extended its spring break until March 22 to allow students and faculty to make the transition. All previously scheduled university events prior to April 30 that expect to draw crowds of more than 100 people have also been canceled.
“Based on the trajectory of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease in communities around the world, it is very likely that cases of COVID-19 will appear in population centers throughout the U.S.,” Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said in a statement. “There are confirmed cases in the vicinity of other Virginia Tech facilities, and we expect that the disease will continue to spread to our many communities.
University of Virginia
U.Va. President James E. Ryan announced Wednesday that U.Va. will be moving all classes online as of March 19. “We will not be holding classes on Grounds for the foreseeable future, quite possibly through the end of the semester,” Ryan said in a statement issued Wednesday. U.Va. will reassess the situation after April 5, he said.
“The university — including university buildings and the Health System — will remain open, and we will bring students back to Grounds as soon as we can do so safely. While we hope to do so before the end of the semester, we may not be able to and are working on a number of contingency plans, including plans for graduation,” Ryan added.
U.Va. also has canceled or prohibited all university events with more than 100 people. The university is also “strongly” encouraging students traveling for spring break to return home or to remain home.
“Our approach is guided by three goals: (1) to protect the health of our students, faculty, staff, and Charlottesville neighbors; (2) to help slow the spread of the virus in Virginia and the nation; (3) to ensure the continuity of our teaching, research, and clinical care. All of those goals are advanced by reducing the number of people who are living and meeting on Grounds,” Ryan said.
Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU has extended its spring break an additional week through March 20. It will then switch to online classes on March 23 “for the foreseeable future,” VCU Michael Rao said in a statement released Wednesday evening.
Students will use digital resources such as Blackboard, videoconferencing and online programs. Both the Monroe Park and MCV campuses will remain open and will operate as usual for faculty and staff, but employees and supervisors may discuss telework agreements. VCU Health research facilities will operate as normal and clinical placements will proceed as planned.
“There are no confirmed cases connected to anyone at VCU or VCU Health.” Rao said
Old Dominion University
ODU issued a statement Wednesday night saying it has extended spring break by one week and will suspend all in-person classes, moving classes online “for the immediate future.”
James Madison University
On Wednesday afternoon JMU announced that it will not hold in-person classes the week of March 15. Beginning March 23, most JMU classes will move online until at least April 5, according to a JMU news release. “A communication will be issued by March 27 regarding the delivery of course content after April 5,” the statement said.
William & Mary
William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe announced Wednesday afternoon that the university has suspended all in-person classes and will begin online-only instruction on March 23. Spring break was originally scheduled to end on March 15. Students are encouraged to return home or stay home from spring break and the university is canceling all university-sponsored travel and events.
“These decisions will have consequences for each of us professionally and personally,” Rowe says. “Changing near-term plans and longstanding habits requires time, effort and patience.”
Radford is continuing spring break until March 20 and moving classes online until at least April 17, according to a statement posted Wednesday on the university’s website. On-campus residence halls and off-campus apartments will be closed.
Norfolk State University
Norfolk State is extending spring break through March 22 and will be moving classes online from March 23 until at least April 6. University residence halls will reopen on March 22, according to the school’s website.
University of Richmond
UR is suspending classes next week, and President Ronald Crutcher, in a letter sent to students, faculty and staff Wednesday evening, asked students who are currently out of town for spring break not to return to campus. Faculty will prepare to teach classes remotely beginning March 23 and continuing “until at least April 3,” Crutcher wrote. Students with extenuating circumstances, such as international students, will have until Friday at 5 p.m. to request an exemption to stay in campus housing. The campus will remain open, including libraries, he added.
Shenandoah University in Winchester announced Wednesday that it will be moving classes online for at least two weeks, beginning March 16.
The University of Virginia’s College at Wise
U.Va. Wise announced Wednesday that it is suspending in-person education and will be moving all classes online as coronavirus spreads in Virginia. U.Va. Wise plans to switch to online classes as of March 23 for the remainder of the semester, though it will also reassess the situation on April 5.
“We feel we are taking the right action to ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and our community,” said U.Va. Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry. “While we have not received word of a positive COVID-19 case in Wise or on campus, we plan to follow guidelines from the University of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control to prevent its spread. We will reevaluate the situation in coming weeks and will make further decisions as Virginia and the nation deals with the virus.”
Averett is canceling classes until March 18 and will resume classes online for at least the next two weeks beginning March 19.
Northern Virginia Community College
NOVA announced Wednesday that it is canceling all in-person classes and moving classes online as of March 18. NOVA has told students not to return from spring break. NOVA will be canceling all classes on March 16 and March 17 in order to allow for the transition, according to a statement released Wednesday afternoon. Classes will be conducted virtually until April 4, the college said. NOVA has also canceled all in-person student-organized activities until April 4.
“NOVA is implementing this remote-learning policy to mitigate the risk of transmission,” according to the statement.
There are no known COVID-19 cases on NOVA’s campuses, which host more than 70,000 students. NOVA campuses will remain open for faculty and staff.
Germanna Community College
Germanna has extended its spring break through March 20, the college released in a statement Wednesday afternoon. After spring break, classes will move online starting March 23 until at least April 3. All college events are canceled through April 6, but faculty and staff are expected to report to work on March 16 unless on approved leave. Germanna locations will be closed for sanitizing and cleaning on March 20, March 27 and April 3 and employees should not report to work on those days.
Tidewater Community College
Tidewater will remain closed until Wednesday, when it will move classes online until at least April 1, according to the college’s president, Marcia Conston.
Richard Bland College of William & Mary
Richard Bland College is extending spring break until March 23, at which time the school will resume classes. It’s undecided at this point if the school will switch to online classes.
Bridgewater College announced late Wednesday that it is moving to online classes through April 3. The college intends to resume on-campus instruction on April 6, President David W. Bushman said in a released statement, and students will be able to return to campus the weekend of April 4 and April 5.
Students are expected to leave campus during the period of distance learning, according to the statement. Classes are canceled on March 12 and March 13 to accommodate travel and preparation. Students must leave campus by 12 p.m. on March 13.
All college-sponsored events on and off campus are canceled until April 3.
“The close living quarters of a college campus create an environment that has a particularly high risk of transmission,” Bushman says. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of social distancing and event cancelations to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Eastern Mennonite University
Eastern Mennonite has canceled classes Friday and will move classes online beginning Monday March 16 through at least April 3. The college is also canceling all events until April 3.
The Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament will continue Thursday in Greensboro, North Carolina — but with no fans in the stands except “essential staff and limited family.” U.Va. will play Thursday at 7 p.m. The ACC’s announcement came Wednesday night, hours after the NCAA said its national tournament would be spectator-free later in the month.
Public school systems
Fairfax County Public Schools, the nation’s 11th-largest school system, is closing on Monday “to prepare for the possibility of distance learning in the event of a school(s) closure,” according to a statement from the school system.
Henrico County Public Schools issued a statement to parents Wednesday saying that while it does not immediately plan to close schools, “The Virginia Department of Education is encouraging school divisions in Virginia to find opportunities for students to learn from home. This week, HCPS is working on plans to ensure the continuity of learning for all students in the event of an extended closure.”
Public schools across Virginia are preparing for the possibility of an extended school closures, said James F. Lane, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, during a press conference held in Richmond today with Gov. Ralph Northam. “The Code of Virginia allows that if a student misses more than six days, they can make up the first five days and then only have to make up one day for every two days missed to reach the standard 990 hours,” Lane said.