HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — James Madison University has announced that they're extending spring break for students and suspending most in-person classes afterward amid fears over COVID-19.
Last year, all public colleges in Virginia froze their tuition in return for extra funds from the General Assembly. | Credit: WHSV
No cases of the virus have been confirmed within anyone in the JMU community, including dozens of students sent home from study abroad programs. However, school officials say after closely monitoring the spread of the pandemic, partnering with the Virginia Department of Health, they made the decision to adjust university operations for the safety of students and faculty.
The plan for the coming weeks
According to the JMU website, the university will continue to stay open and offer services to students, like their Counseling Center and University Health Center, but will not hold any in-person classes the week of March 16-20.
After that week is over, by Monday, March 23, most JMU classes will move online.
The university says that will last at least until Sunday, April 5.
That's in line with a move announced by UVA on Tuesday as well, in which that university announced all in-person classes were ending until at least April 5, when the situation will be reassessed.
According to JMU's statement, the university will issue communication by March 27 to let students know how course content will be delivered after April 5.
What about students or faculty and returning to campus?
Faculty, staff and graduate assistants are expected to report to work as regularly scheduled. Many of them will be expected to work to transition course content, assignments, and activities online.
Deans will be reaching out to faculty in the coming days with more information.
While JMU's residence halls will reopen on March 15, students are encouraged not to return to JMU until at least April 5, after some time has passed in which any students returning from spring break will have passed the incubation time for the novel coronavirus.
"We recognize students will need to gather personal belongings," the JMU statement reads. "We also acknowledge that some students may not have an alternative housing option, or need to be based on campus to maintain involvement in athletic, employment or lab-based learning engagements. We ask that those students check in with their residential staff once they return to JMU."
What about events at the school?
The university is canceling or postponing all events held on campus and at any JMU facilities from Monday, March 16 to at least Sunday, April 5.
That includes university events, as well as events hosted by community and student organizations.
What about athletics?
There are no changes to the university’s athletic schedule at this time. The university will continue to communicate with the NCAA and Colonial Athletic Association regarding athletics operations.
What about school travel?
University-sponsored travel to countries carrying a Level 3 Travel Notice from the Centers for Disease Control is prohibited. All other university-sponsored domestic and international travel must be approved by deans or division vice presidents, according to JMU.
Decisions will be made on a case by case basis.
What is the current situation surround COVID-19 in our area?
The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on Tuesday, quickly sparking a lot of changes from academic institutions, businesses, churches, and more.
No cases of the virus have been confirmed in the Shenandoah Valley. Nine cases in total have been confirmed in Virginia: in Ashland, Virginia Beach, Falls Church, Loudoun County, Fairfax City, Spotsylvania County, and Arlington County.
You can learn more about JMU's response to the virus on the university's COVID-19 FAQ webpage.