U.Va. moving all classes online as coronavirus spreads in Va.
Northern Virginia Community College also is canceling in-person classes.
UPDATE, 3:34 p.m., MARCH 11: The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is the latest state higher education institution to announce 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 reassess the situation on April 5.
UPDATE, 3:34 p.m., MARCH 11: Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) 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 hosts more than 70,000 students. NOVA campuses will remain open for faculty and staff.
UPDATE, 12:45 p.m., MARCH 11: University of Virginia President James E. Ryan announced Wednesday that U.Va. will be moving all classes online as of Thursday, 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.
As of March 11, the coronavirus has spread to Central Virginia, with a ninth Virginia case confirmed in Hanover County.
This is a developing story. Virginia Business will add updates as more information becomes available.
MARCH 10, 2020 — Amid fears of the novel coronavirus that spread to Virginia this week, the University of Virginia and other state universities are considering moving classes online — a move already being taken by several major universities across the nation that have been cancelling in-person classes, including Harvard University, Columbia University and Princeton University.
And universities are not the only educational systems mulling such measures in Virginia. 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.”
In Charlottesville, U.Va. has been holding COVID-19-related planning meetings in which university officials have discussed the possibility of extending this week’s spring break and moving its classes online, a university source told Virginia Business.
“All options are on the table,” though no decision has yet been made, University of Virginia Rector James B. Murray Jr. said Tuesday, adding that he and U.Va. President James E. Ryan have been discussing the rapidly changing situation, which is developing “hour by hour.”
Ryan has convened a work group to assess the health threat to the university and to discuss potential responses, Murray said. University spokesperson Brian Coy said Ryan would be updating the community on coronavirus-related actions later this week.
While U.Va. is working closely and sharing information with the state government, it’s his understanding, Murray said, that the Northam administration is allowing state universities to individually decide what actions may need to be taken in response to the coronavirus based on potential risks. For instance, he said, U.Va.’s Charlottesville campus is probably at a higher risk for coronavirus due to the fact that some students are traveling internationally during spring break. But the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, which is relatively isolated in Southwest Virginia, probably isn’t at as much risk.
First and foremost, Murray said, U.Va’s decision making will be focused on the safety and well-being of the university’s student body. However, he noted that U.Va.’s coronavirus planning is also focused around U.Va. Medical Center’s responsibility as a safety-net hospital, treating patients regardless of their income or insurance status.
At Virginia Tech, Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke sent a letter to faculty Monday urging them to explore and prepare options for delivering coursework outside the classroom.
“Due to the continuing spread of COVID-19 infection in the United States, we must accelerate planning necessary to sustain our academic mission, including the use of online platforms to deliver instruction,” Clarke wrote. “Please use this spring break when most classes are not in session to become familiar with strategies to continue teaching through disruptions and to plan for the possibility that students and faculty may not be able to meet for course sessions in person.”
“As of [Tuesday], we have not made the decision to move all courses to an online format, but that could change in the future,” said Mark Owczarski, Virginia Tech’s assistant vice president for university relations.
James Madison University is also looking into how it could move its courses online, JMU spokesperson Caitlyn Read said Tuesday.
“We are looking at how do we move our courses online,” Read said. “Our libraries and our online learning centers have ratcheted up support services for faculty who are looking … to get classes online. They’re working through that with a number of faculty members right now.”
As of Tuesday, Read said, the university is still planning to resume classes after its spring break, which ends March 16. The university is also looking into its policies on telecommuting, flexible leave and sick leave, Read says, by working with human resources to better understand what the university can do as far as contingency planning. The university plans to release that information by the end of the week.
Other universities, such as Virginia Commonwealth University and Christopher Newport University, responded that as of Tuesday they had no plan to move classes online.
Virginia now has eight verified cases of the coronavirus, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
Among the people currently awaiting test results for coronavirus is a Longwood University student, who is self-quarantining, according to a report Tuesday afternoon from the university, and was tested for the virus Tuesday.
“The Virginia Department of Health is closely involved and in regular contact with us, and has told us no one else on campus needs to self-quarantine at this time,” Longwood University said in a statement to students.
Longwood students returned to campus on Monday from their spring breaks.