Fort Hays State University has told students and faculty to return home for spring break with plans not to return to campus.
An email Thursday afternoon from President Tisa Mason to faculty and staff said all face-to-face classes at the university will be delivered only online after spring break.
Spring break starts March 23 at FHSU, which has 5,800 students, about 4,648 attending on campus.
"In conjunction with this change in course delivery following spring break, and in the interest of taking additional ‘social distancing’ measures to mitigate risk, we are asking that students currently residing on campus return to their homes during spring break (bringing all personal belongings with you, including any textbooks and course material) and thereafter remain at home during this period of on-line delivery," Mason said in the email.
"Obviously, not all students will be able to do so, and we will work through the Residential Life team to accommodate such students," she said.
"The specific duration of this change will largely depend on the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and, of course, the latest guidance and information from KDHE and other appropriate local, state, and national officials," Mason said. "We intend to re-evaluate this decision on a weekly basis, but at this point we fully anticipate that the change to online delivery will last for the remainder of the spring semester."
Already, Fort Hays has altered courses it offers face-to-face in China to deliver them fully online.
Kansas State University and Emporia State University officials said Thursday they would mirror key elements of the University of Kansas’ response to spread of coronavirus by delaying resumption of classes after spring break and granting faculty time to migrate course content and instruction to online platforms.
K-State President Richard Myers said in-person classes on all its campuses would be suspended from March 16-20, and as of March 23, courses at the land-grant university would be taught remotely.
"Right now, the K-State community is dispersed throughout the nation and globe during spring break," Myers said. "When everyone returns, it could increase the risk of the spread of the novel coronavirus."
Emporia State President Allison Garrett said the campus would call off classes next week and flip to online courses. In addition, all Emporia State sports events will be played without spectators and all campus events are canceled until April 10. Students living in residence halls and Greek housing are urged to stay home next week, she said.
On Wednesday night, KU announced plans to lengthen spring break by one week and give professors and graduate students a window of opportunity to convert to online methods of teaching. The change could be temporary, but no firm deadline was set and might remain throughout a semester ending May 15.
"Beginning the week of March 23, courses will be taught remotely using online tools," KU Chancellor Doug Girod and provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said in a statement. "We anticipate needing to stay online for several weeks, however, our team will reassess the need to continue remote-only instruction each week, starting March 28."
More than 100 U.S. universities have postponed or canceled in-person classes because campuses are particularly vulnerable to distribution of COVID-19.
Kansas' higher education governance board Wednesday urged leaders of the system's six public universities to respond to the pandemic in a manner matching needs of 75,000 students enrolled statewide as well as the thousands of staff and faculty on campus.
So far, administrators at Wichita State University and Pittsburg State University haven’t adopted wholesale instructional changes in response to the virus.
Washburn University announced Thursday afternoon that in-person classes at its Topeka campus will be canceled through March 20 amid concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a news release, Washburn officials said students are encouraged not to return to the campus. Officials also said all in-person classes are canceled through March 20.
After March 20, most classes will be conducted via the university’s distance-learning systems. The pause in face-to-face classes next week will allow faculty the time needed to adjust to a remote delivery system for their courses.
Washburn students were on spring break this week, with no classes scheduled.
Garden City Community College
At the 2,000-student Garden City Community College, Shajia Donecker, public relations and marketing coordinator, said they haven’t adopted changes in operations.
She said GCCC wasn’t planning to delay start of classes after spring break, which runs from March 16-20.
In McPherson, Central Christian College there is no decision at this time to delay reopening of classes following the break.
"Students are also informing our offices of where they are traveling so that we can track possible points of contagion," said Leonard Favara Jr., the college’s president.
The framework is in place to convert to online instruction if necessary, Favara said.
Pittsburg State University has stepped up disinfecting of high-traffic areas and has suspended all university-led international travel for the remainder of the semester.
Kansas Wesleyan University and Salina Area Technical College haven’t made changes to class schedules.
Greg Nichols, president of the technical college, said Salina Tech didn’t plan to cancel classes or move courses online because hands-on education was at the core of the instructional model.
Kansas Wesleyan University President Matt Thompson said the school wasn’t ready to move to the online option.
"With more than 50% of our students from out of state, we are very sensitive to the fact that remaining on campus may be the best option," Thompson said.
The college's annual spring break is March 23-27 and officials anticipate on-campus activities to resume March 28, said Tricia Clark, director of institutional communications at the college.
"That being said, all of this could change rapidly within a day or two," Clark said. "We have tiered plans in place for students, faculty and staff in the event of different sequence of events playing out."
Hutchinson Community College
In Hutchinson, community college officials haven’t decided whether to delay classes following spring break on March 23.
Denny Stoecklein, spokesman for Hutchinson Community College, said the college has a robust schedule of online courses.
"We recognize the possibility we may need to transition our current face-to-face classes to more of an online model and will address that need as it arises," he said.
Pratt Community College
At Pratt Community College there are no plans to delay start of classes after spring break or move all classes online, said PCC President Michael Calvert, but such a transition could be completed in 48 hours, if needed.
Alternative accommodations for international students and students from long distances are being investigated in case PCC has to close residence halls.
Reporters from more than a dozen Gannett Kansas newspapers contributed to this story.