A Chinese student association at Fort Hays State University has postponed its popular spring festival gala set for Saturday evening.

“So far, because we have word of the coronavirus that there is a potential infection in Lawrence, the president of the association talked to other schools in Kansas who have postponed theirs,” said Kelei “Jackie” Zhang, advisor to the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and an instructor in the FHSU Informatics Department.

“What we’ve decided is to minimize the potential danger this may cause, even though we know we’re under a safe situation,” Zhang said Thursday in an interview.

There are about 70 or 80 students in the FHSU Chinese association, he said, and the festival has taken place since at least 2009.

An evening of performances, dancing and songs, this year it was going to include participation by the Taekwondo Academy at Main Street Gym, 806 Main, along with some of the Korean students on campus, comedy skits and a prize drawing. Typically 150 or more students attend from around the state, with as many as 300 one year, Zhang said.

“It’s a big crowd in a small space, so this is just a precaution,” he said. A new date hasn’t been set.

Spring classes started Tuesday, Jan. 21. There are two students on campus from Wuhan, the city where the virus started in China, but no cases reported at FHSU, according to Scott Cason, spokesman for the university.

“Fall enrollment of Chinese students on our Hays campus was 78,” Cason said in an email.

Cason and Zhang both said everyone who needed to has returned from China for the Hays campus semester.

“We know of no Chinese students who wanted to return to Hays but were not able to do so,” Cason said.

“I think we all made it back from Christmas break,” Zhang said. “Quite a few students went back for the student break and all made it back safely.”

So far it’s been two weeks since most of the students returned, with four who just got back.

“They got screened in China and at the international airports, and at student health,” Zhang said. “We take extreme caution with this. We tell the students to wear masks and if they are feeling uncomfortable or have symptoms to let us know. We haven’t heard anything yet.”

In China, one of the two universities where students there earn degrees from Fort Hays State University has delayed the start of its semester due to coronavirus.

Classes were set to start Feb. 24 at Sias University in Henan Province, about 460 miles from Wuhan, said Cason.

Sias notified Fort Hays that, “Our school has announced today to delay the spring semester school opening date. The new school opening date will be announced later, depending on the virus situation and the requirement from the Ministry of Education and Henan Education Department.”

“That’s a preventative step that they are taking,” said Cason, chief communications officer at Fort Hays.

FHSU has close to 4,500 Chinese students at the two different campuses. Besides Sias, the other is Shenyang Normal University in Liaoning province, about 1,100 miles from Wuhan city.

Shenyang is set to start March 2 and there’s been no change to that as yet, Cason said in an emailed statement.

It’s hard to know where the students are from, he said, because the hometown/province is not a mandatory field in the application the Chinese students fill out.

Fort Hays currently has no American students studying abroad in China, he said. One student who was traveling after the fall term is returning to the United States, he added in his email.

He said FHSU administration is keeping students and faculty updated and preventative actions with information from the Centers for Disease Control and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

He said four new faculty members in the United States are set to start teaching at Sias this spring, but they are still waiting for a firm start date to make their travel arrangements.

“We fund and arrange travel for new faculty when they begin their first term of teaching,” Cason said. “From that point on, these faculty make all of their own travel arrangements. We do not administer or track their movement or travel once they have started to work.”