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Gonzaga extends spring break, prepares to move courses online due to COVID-19

UPDATED: Thu., March 12, 2020

Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh addresses a packed ballroom on the Spokane campus on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. The university is extending its spring vacation and preparing for the possibility of moving courses online, following the lead of other schools taking steps to mitigate COVID-19. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh addresses a packed ballroom on the Spokane campus on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. The university is extending its spring vacation and preparing for the possibility of moving courses online, following the lead of other schools taking steps to mitigate COVID-19. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga University is extending its spring vacation and preparing for the possibility of moving courses online, following the lead of other schools taking steps to mitigate COVID-19.

In messages to students, faculty and staff on Thursday, Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh said spring semester courses now are scheduled to resume on March 23.

Gonzaga officials haven’t decided whether students will gather in classrooms or begin receiving instruction remotely on that date. McCulloh said that decision will be announced no later than Wednesday.

“Cognizant of the speed with which this situation is moving, we want to inform you that it is likely we will resume classes via technology and distance delivery beginning March 23rd, without being able to support face-to-face instruction or return to residence halls,” McCulloh wrote to students.

The campus will remain open and operational for the next week, but university-sponsored events and activities are canceled.

“Students who do not need to be on campus are strongly encouraged to return to their permanent place of residence, if possible,” McCulloh wrote. “For those unable to go home to an off-campus location, we will continue to support students in our campus housing and dining facilities.”

University of Washington medical students who study at Gonzaga will resume classes next week, with large group sessions conducted online and small group sessions conducted in person, according to Gonzaga.

Students in the MEDEX physician assistant program, which is run jointly by UW and Gonzaga, are taking final exams online and are scheduled to resume classes on March 30, when their spring quarter begins.

Other schools have taken similar steps to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

UW and Western Washington University have suspended most in-person classes and are shifting to online instruction. Washington State University and Eastern Washington University announced Wednesday they will follow suit.

In an email to faculty members, McCulloh said the decision to extend spring break was based on recent developments, including the announcements from WSU and EWU.

He also noted that the World Health Organization had declared a COVID-19 pandemic, that Gov. Jay Inslee had declared emergency crowd restrictions in three counties, that President Donald Trump had restricted travel from Europe and that the NCAA had canceled championships for all spring and winter sports, including the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

“Up until late yesterday, we were prepared to resume classes, as scheduled, on Monday next (March 16),” McCulloh wrote. “However, a series of incidents occurred in the past 36 hours that have caused me to modify my perspective.”

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