By Joel Funk, Laramie Boomerang via Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming announced Monday that all undergraduate and graduate courses will be delivered remotely when the semester resumes after spring break on March 30 amid concerns about the spreading novel coronavirus, commonly known as COVID-19.
Students living in the residence halls were told not to return to campus after spring break, though acting UW president Neil Theobald said the residence halls will remain open for “select students who have no alternate housing option.” Students living in the residence halls during spring break were advised to make plans to leave as soon as possible. Dining facilities will remain open at reduced capacity to accommodate those who need to stay on campus, and Theobald ensured student support services would remain open and available.
“Our campus resources are mobilizing to continue providing support remotely,” Theobald said during a UW Board of Trustees meeting conducted by videoconference Monday morning.
Regardless of location for the remainder of the spring semester, Theobald said students will be expected to complete their coursework.
UW is immediately administering an online survey for students to assess personal limitations to accessing technology that will be required to complete coursework.
“UW will contact any student with an identified need for accessibility so student learning needs are met,” Theobald said.
With nine weeks until graduation, Theobald said the university is planning to hold ceremonies on campus.
Students living in Greek housing were told to contact their national organizations for guidance.
UW employees will continue to work, but the university is encouraging working remotely where appropriate. Employees were told to consult with direct supervisors and that final decisions would be made by division vice presidents.
Those with chronic health conditions or living with someone with chronic health conditions, are pregnant or immunocompromised were told to seriously consider working remotely.
“I encourage supervisors and vice presidents to be flexible in creating and finding ways for employees to work remotely,” Theobald said. “In this situation, we are not closing campus; we are just changing the mode of delivery.”
Student health services will also remain open.
Those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, cough and shortness of breath — were told to call student health services before going to the clinic on campus. That number is 307-766-2130.
If a concern develops outside of the clinic’s hours, students can call Ivinson Memorial Hospital at 307-742-2141 for further advice. Faculty and staff were told to contact their health care providers if experiencing symptoms. The UW Family Medicine Residency Center and Albany County Health Clinic will also remain open.
The university is immediately suspending all institutionally-sponsored travel through May 15, unless the division vice president “deems the trip to be mission-critical to the university and provides written approval,” Theobald said. The university is discouraging booking of travel between May 16 and June 30, though those who have travel planned for that time were not asked to cancel.
Individuals returning from a country currently at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Warning Level 3 status should stay away from campus, and self-monitor and self-isolate for 14 days following their return.
One question on the minds of many is how research requiring in-person work would continue if classes were moved online. Theobald said the Office of Research and Economic Development is offering guidance and resources for the University of Wyoming research community to assist in the planning for potential impacts and ensuring research continuity during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Effective immediately, all university events are suspended until further notice, including all athletic competitions and gatherings. Campus visits for prospective students are suspended until further notice, though it was noted on the university website that applications for fall 2020 are still being processed.
More communications regarding the university’s plans will be forthcoming as the situation develops, said David Jewell, associate vice president for financial affairs.
“This is a moving target, but we have the incident command center in place, it’s staffed 24 hours a day, and we’re being as responsive as we can,” he said.
UW’s announcement came the day after Gov. Mark Gordon and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow made a joint announcement, calling on districts across the state to close schools until April 3.
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