As cases of COVID-19 spread around the country, the University of Wisconsin-Superior, University of Minnesota Duluth and College of St. Scholastica are extending spring break and moving all classes online.
In an email to staff, students and faculty Wednesday afternoon, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel said spring break at U of M's Duluth, Rochester and Twin Cities campuses will be extended two days until March 18. At that time, classes will resume "through online or alternative instruction." Online instruction will last until at least April 1 at all U of M campuses. Field experiences and clinicals will also be suspended.
The announcement came less than a day after Gabel instructed faculty to start preparing to teach courses online and canceled all domestic and international travel.
U of M's Crookston and Morris campuses are scheduled to go on spring break next week and will have classes taught in-person through Friday. Classes will resume online or in other alternative formats after spring break.
"Students are encouraged to stay home and continue classes online. However, we recognize that for some students the safest, most secure place will be on one of our five campuses," Gabel said. "At this time, residence halls, dining services, and other student services will continue."
There are no known cases of COVID-19 within the University of Minnesota system.
At UWS, spring break was extended by a week and will take place from March 16-29. Up until then, all classes, events and programming will be held as scheduled, UWS Chancellor Renée Wachter said in a message to the campus and media.
"We are acting out of an abundance of caution and taking proactive steps to better prepare in case our area becomes impacted," Wachter said. "We also want to take steps to slow the potential spread of this illness in our region."
Beginning Monday, March 30, classes typically held on campus must resume in an "alternate delivery mode."
Students who can are being asked to live away from campus during the break and when classes resume.
"We recognize that some students may be unable to return to their permanent residence for various reasons and will need to stay in their residence halls," Wachter said. "At this time, services for those students will be available such as dining services in the Yellowjacket Union, residence halls, Jim Dan Hill Library and Marcovich Wellness Center."
The earliest that the campus can resume in-person classes is April 13, though the UWS emergency response team will continue to assess the safety and risk to provide an update by April 8.
CSS, which is on spring break next week, will extend its spring break through March 20. Beginning March 23, classes will be taught online until at least April 8, St. Scholastica announced Wednesday afternoon.
CSS and UWS will give at least a five-day notice if the online-only classes will be extended. The University of Minnesota will also continue to evaluate the situation on an ongoing basis to determine if the online-only instruction period needs to be extended.
"In light of the World Health Organization designation today of COVID-19 as a pandemic situation, the College has moved to the next level of our pandemic planning," CSS President Barbara McDonald said.
Students in CSS dorms and apartments "will not be able to live on campus unless approved through an exemption process" until April 8. During this time, non-essential CSS employees are being asked to work from home.
CSS has already canceled international travel through the semester and is asking students that travel over spring break to inform the college on where they went.
Classes that are already held online at UWS will continue as usual and will not be affected by the spring break extension, and the campus operations will remain open and uninterrupted.
According to the news release, UWS is committed to ensuring students complete the semester and stay on track for graduation.
"It’s important to reiterate that our campus is safe and that there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our region," Wachter said. "However, COVID-19 is spreading rapidly elsewhere."
Both UWS and the University of Minnesota system have canceled all of their upcoming student and employee travel planned to China, Italy, Iran and South Korea, as those are counties the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified under "Warning Level 3."
UMD had six students studying abroad in Italy, all of whom left prior to March 6.
The University of Minnesota has canceled its summer trips to those countries.
UWS will make decisions regarding its summer study abroad program in late April.
UWS sports teams are continuing as scheduled, but are being monitored in accordance with Upper Midwest Athletic Conference and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, said UWS relations specialist James Biros.
The Minnesota and State Colleges and Universities system, which includes Lake Superior College, has not made any decisions to extend spring break and resume classes online as of Wednesday afternoon.
This story was updated at 6:30 p.m. March 11 with additional information. It was originally posted at 1:01 p.m. March 11.
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