West Virginia Wesleyan College will suspend face-to-face classes and ask students to leave campus for the remainder of the semester, the school announced Thursday morning.
In an email to the campus community, Wesleyan president Joel Thierstein said classes will be suspended at the end of the day Thursday and students should plan to move out of the dorms and return home by 5 p.m. on Sunday, March 15.
“After thorough deliberation, West Virginia Wesleyan College has decided to transition to online course instruction beginning Wednesday, March 18,” Thierstein writes in the email.
Classes will be canceled through next Tuesday before transitioning to online based learning.
“Beginning March 18, all classes will move to online/alternative course delivery,” Thierstein writes. “Online/alternative course delivery will continue through the end of the 2020 Spring semester.”
Thierstein notes that students who are unable to immediately return home will be provided accommodations on campus and that food service will continue.
All Bobcat sporting events will also be canceled as of Thursday, as are May-term and summer international travel trips.
In addition, Wesleyan facilities will be closed to the non-campus community through April 30, and the college will contact groups with current reservations to inform them of that decision.
However, Thierstein says the college will remain operational and employees are required to report to work. Commencement weekend in particular has not been canceled, and prospective students may still visit campus, he notes.
“Events surrounding COVID-19 are unfolding quickly,” Thierstein writes. “I have watched the Wesleyan community come together around this issue over the past several weeks as we have dealt with the disruption caused by this health crisis. Wesleyan is, and always has been, a strong caring community. We appreciate your patience and flexibility in the days and weeks ahead.”
Wesleyan’s decision comes shortly after other schools in West Virginia had made similar decisions to suspend classes. WVU and Marshall announced early this week that they will suspend in-person classes following spring break, and Fairmont State made a similar move Wednesday.
Those schools are asking students to stay home after spring break in part to prevent students who might travel to regions were COVID-19 is spreading in the community from returning to West Virginia. However, Wesleyan held spring break the first week of March and students had already returned to Buckhannon.
As developments unfolded quickly, Wesleyan asked professors to prepare for a transition to online-based classes.
“Circumstances may change quickly, and faculty should begin thinking now about how best to deliver their courses fully online for the remainder of the semester should we decided to suspend face-to-face instruction or face a quarantine situation,” Dr. James Moore, Dean of Faculty, wrote in an email bulletin on Wednesday.
The college’s Center for Teaching and Learning created and distributed a “Quick Start Guide” containing strategies for faculty to quickly move course content online.
“We ask that faculty immediately begin implementing online tools so that students can experience the digital landscape,” Moore wrote. “The more we can prepare ourselves and students in the event of a disruption, the easier that scenario would be.”
The email also outlines steps students and faculty should take if they develop symptoms or learn they have had contact with someone who tests positive to COVID-19.
“We know that this is a challenging time and, while we are hopeful, the spread of COVID-19 to our region is likely and we must be prepared,” Moore wrote.
Wesleyan released the following Q&A to help students move from face-to-face to online learning.
Q. How are classes to be taught when on-campus activity is suspended?
A. Beginning March 18, all classes will move to alternate/online delivery methods. Alternate delivery methods will continue through the end of the 2020 spring semester. Students will receive information and instructions from faculty members regarding course delivery methods. These methods may include recorded lectures, online discussion groups and posts, and other means.
Q. Are current online classes affected by the change in academic calendar?
A. No, online classes will continue as scheduled.
Q. Is graduation cancelled?
A. We will be evaluating graduation as the situation evolves. Currently, commencement weekend will continue as scheduled.
Q. I know residence halls are closed. What if it is a hardship for me to return home?
A. For students who fall in this category, continuing accommodations will be provided upon application to Campus Life. Housing for students remaining on campus will be consolidated, allowing for closure of residence halls. Food service will continue as provided. Hours will be announced when available.
Q. Will college offices remain open during this time?
A. The college will remain operational and all offices will be open and fully staffed. Beginning Thursday, March 19, supervisors will determine if an alternate plan for remote staffing will be implemented.
Q. How does this decision affect events scheduled on campus by outside groups?
A. Wesleyan facilities are closed to the non-campus community through April 30. We will contact those organizations with current reservations in a timely manner.
Q. What about laboratory and performance classes, clinical rotations, student teaching, and internships?
A. Laboratory and performance classes are being evaluated and more information will be provided in due course. Students with clinical rotations, student teaching and internship courses will also be provided additional information.