• March 31, 2020

Colleges extend break, plan for remote studies - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Colleges extend break, plan for remote studies

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Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2020 5:01 pm

Extended spring breaks, canceled events, moratoriums on travel and mandatory online courses — welcome to college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there are no presumptive or confirmed cases on the region’s college campuses, schools are taking precautionary measures.

Stockton University in Galloway Township has extended its spring break through Tuesday, March 24, to allow faculty to finalize any instructional continuity plans. 

On Wednesday, March 25, and continuing through Sunday, April 5, all classes will be held online.

“Right now we’re just working with the faculty and staff to make sure everybody is prepared to do the online classes for the two-week period afterward,” said Diane D’Amico, Stockton’s director of news and media relations. “We’re just seeing what events may be going on here if they have to be canceled. We haven’t made any specific decision about public events yet but just anything that might have been planned for students would likely be canceled.”

D’Amico said an administrative staff was meeting on a daily basis and reviewing any COVID-19-related issues. 

She said the campus would remain open during the two-week period after spring break. 

“Technically students can come back if they want to come back and do their work. They’re not prohibited from coming on campus, but all of the actual classes will be held online,” D’Amico said.

Online instruction could extend past April 5 based on the CORVID-19 virus’s spread in New Jersey, D’Amico said. 

“We would make a decision about whether or not we can have everyone come back or whether we might have to continue online,” D’Amico said. 

D’Amico said the procedures are an “attempt to help mitigate the spread (of COVID-19).” 

Stockton also announced that all international travel by faculty, staff and students is canceled until further notice.

All events scheduled at all Stockton locations are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis and efforts will be made to limit large gatherings. More information will be shared as those decisions are made.

“I am confident that we can continue to provide a high-quality education while prioritizing the health and safety of our community,” Stockton President Harvey Kesselman said in a statement. 

Updates and information about Stockton University’s response to COVID-19 can be found online at stockton.edu/emergency-management/coronavirus.html. 

Stockton’s website provides tips for protecting students from the spread of viruses, including the flu: 

•Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

•Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. 

•Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

•Stay home from class and work if you are sick.

•Cover your coughs or sneezes with a tissue, not your hands, then throw it away, or use your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose.

•Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

•Get a flu shot — it’s not too late to be protected.

Atlantic Cape Community College (ACCC), which has campuses in Mays Landing, Cape May Court House and Atlantic City, is likewise taking precautions.

Atlantic Cape’s Social Media and Public Relations Manager Erin Mercer said there’s no indication that the college would close its physical locations, but they are prepared to move all classes online if necessary. 

Mercer said the college hired additional cleaning staff, increased the frequency of the cleaning schedule and increased the quantity of hand-sanitizing stations on campus. 

“We have also asked our faculty to adopt a more relaxed policy for students who may be missing classes and we’ve asked the faculty to prepare for the possibility that we may need to move to online instruction,” Mercer said. “If the conditions change as far as there being cases closer to us, we’re prepared to implement a contingency plan which would include moving online. We’re taking the lead from state and public health officials and we are continuing to monitor the situation.”

Online instruction would also be provided at Atlantic Cape’s other locations, including the Cape May County campus if need be, Mercer said. 

“Our college, no matter what campus, we have the Blackboard system and some other additional Blackboard capabilities that will allow us to be able to have online instruction if we need to. The faculty has been asked to prepare for that should that need to happen,” Mercer said.

Blackboard is an online learning management system. 

Mercer said Atlantic Cape’s spring break is the week of March 16. She added that faculty will know by next week whether spring break would be extended. 

“We do already have a lot of classes online or instructors that have hybrid classes where it’s 50-50. They’re asked to prepare for the possibility that it’s going to be completely online. Thankfully we should be able to do that if there’s a need to but there might be a little preparation that’s needed,” Mercer said.

She added that the college has the ability to text or email students or broadcast an alert on the college’s website.

“Once we know more especially if it’s going to be all online we will tell them every way possible,” Mercer said. 

In a March 12 update from Atlantic Cape President Barbara Gaba, the college is working with the health departments in both Atlantic and Cape May counties to monitor any local virus activity and to prepare for cases that could potentially be found in the area.

Atlantic Cape’s website has regular updates and information about COVID-19 at atlantic.edu/coronavirus.

At Rowan University in Glassboro, spring break has been extended for two weeks, from March 16 to March 27, so faculty could fine-tune and strengthen their online instruction.

Rowan University President Ali A. Houshmand and Provost Tony Lowman sent an email to students March 12 announcing all in-person instruction would move online through remote learning platforms for the remainder of the semester. 

All NCAA activities have been canceled through the end of the semester, as well as many national intercollegiate programs.

Rowan will continue to remain open to accommodate students who choose to remain on campus and need dining and other resources or support for their educational needs, according to the email.

The university also suggested that students, faculty and staff reconsider any upcoming domestic travel, especially to areas affected by COVID-19.

The email noted that remote technology should be used for meetings and on-campus events are “strongly discouraged.”

“We assure you that we share your disappointment and frustrations about everything related to this international public health crisis and its effects on the Rowan community,” according to the email. “No one returned to campus in January expecting in March to leave classrooms and labs and have our lives disrupted. None of us know what lies ahead and the uncertainties an seem overwhelming.” 

Information and updates will be available at the university’s website rowan.edu/virusinfo.

“We are in this together,” the email concluded. “We will emerge stronger, more capable and equipped with the invaluable experience and enlightened perspective that often only difficulty can bring.”

Rutgers University canceled all classes from Thursday, March 12, through the end of spring break Sunday, March 22, at its Camden, Newark and New Brunswick campuses. 

“While at this time we are not aware of any confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our community, we have been closely tracking its spread across the region,” Rutgers president Robert Barchi stated in an email to students and staff. “We have an imperative to do what we can to slow the spread of this serious virus and protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Beginning Monday, March 23, through at least Friday, April 3, all face-to-face instruction was suspended and all course instruction was to be delivered remotely. Individual instructors were expected to be in contact with their students regarding their plans for remote instruction prior to March 23. 

Students living in residence halls were urged to leave campus as soon as possible and remain off campus through April 3.

Beginning March 12, Rutgers events and in-person meetings involving groups larger than 15 participants were canceled through April 15. Groups with events scheduled after April 15 were urged to begin considering alternative plans in case future events will need to be canceled or postponed and no new nonessential events should be scheduled until further notice.

Rutgers also suggested that students and staff reconsider any domestic travel, especially to areas where there has been a significant incidence of COVID-19. All Rutgers-led international spring break programs were canceled and all international travel sponsored by Rutgers was suspended.

In addition, any member of the Rutgers community returning from a country designated Level 3 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were required to self-isolate for 14 days before returning to campus. 

“We do not undertake any of these changes without careful consideration of the hardships and inconvenience that they may impose,” Barchi stated.

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