Whitworth University, North Idaho College and the Community Colleges of Spokane have joined the list of schools canceling in-person classes and preparing to teach lessons online due to COVID-19.
Most colleges and universities in the Inland Northwest already had taken those steps when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made them a requirement on Friday.
Meanwhile, Washington State University announced Friday it has canceled Mom’s Weekend, which was expected draw hordes of students and parents to businesses and events in Pullman in early April. Some schools are considering whether to cancel or postpone graduation ceremonies.
In a post on Whitworth’s website, President Beck Taylor said spring break will begin Saturday, a week ahead of schedule. Courses will resume March 30, as originally planned. Inslee’s order will require most courses to be taught online at least through April 24.
Whitworth’s campus north of Spokane will remain open, and some students are registering to stay in residence halls during the break. Taylor said student-employees should talk to their supervisors about their schedules during the next two weeks. Academic advising will continue, and dining halls will remain open. Athletic programs were suspended Thursday.
“A campus activities committee is being formed to determine which campus events will continue as planned, and which will be modified, postponed or canceled,” Taylor said. “At this point, no decisions have been made about end-of-year events like commencement. Our hope is that the current public health threat subsides and we will be able to have these important celebratory events.”
In an update Friday, Taylor said Whitworth was forced to cancel a lu’au celebration in light of orders from the governor and the Spokane Regional Health District banning gatherings of more than 250 people.
EWU announced Friday it will teach courses online for its entire spring quarter, which is scheduled to run March 30 through June 12. Some lab sessions will continue with students required to stay 6 feet apart from one another, the university said.
The new crowd restrictions also forced EWU to cancel its Get Lit! literature festival, among other events.
WSU likewise announced Friday it will continue using “distance learning” methods for its entire spring semester, which is slated to end May 8.
“WSU had previously left open the possibility of a return to face-to-face teaching in Pullman at some point during the spring 2020 semester,” President Kirk Schulz said in a statement.
Campus residence halls, dining centers and health care facilities will remain open, Schulz said.
“This decision only impacts WSU Pullman at this time,” he said. “The university’s other four campuses may still return to in-person teaching prior to the end of the semester, depending on local needs and approval by local public health officials.”
WSU canceled Mom’s Weekend festivities, which had been scheduled to start April 3.
“The university will contact the promoter of the Macklemore concert scheduled for April 4 to determine the status of that performance,” Schulz said. “A decision regarding WSU Pullman’s May 9 commencement exercises will be made closer to the event date.”
North Idaho College also canceled school-sponsored events and travel. The school is preparing to move “as many classes online as possible, beginning next week,” President Rick MacLennan said in a post on NIC’s website.
“Classes and labs that cannot be moved online will continue to be offered in-person with the incorporation of social distancing measures,” MacLennan said. “As classroom use declines, custodial staff will shift to daytime hours, and will focus their sanitizing efforts on areas being accessed by students and staff.”
Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College refrained from canceling in-person classes until Friday afternoon, when Inslee announced that all higher education institutions in Washington must teach online instead.
In an announcement, Community Colleges of Spokane, the entity that oversees both community colleges, said it “will move the majority of our courses to online delivery or alternative methods” beginning Tuesday and continue teaching online at least through April 24.
“Lab courses and technical and health courses that require in-person instruction will continue to meet on our campuses, but will do so with additional health safety precautions of social distancing, ongoing cleaning and reasonable class sizes,” the college district said.
CCS also extended its spring break by one week to give faculty more time to prepare online course materials. The spring quarter will begin on April 13.
“SCC and SFCC already have an extensive and successful online education program, and we are confident that our faculty and staff will work collaboratively to ensure these additional online courses will provide high-quality, comprehensive education,” the college district said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.