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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.
KSU 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 ESU 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."
They said members of the KU community had been in areas with reported cases of the virus and "we don’t expect to be immune."
Out of an abundance of caution, KU officials said, all university-sponsored domestic and international business-related travel and attendance at meetings and conferences was discontinued, effective immediately. Business-related travel in and around Kansas and Missouri is excluded from this restriction. University employees were asked not to make new plans for business travel during the next 60 days. In addition, events sponsored by KU have been limited to no more than 50 participants.
At Kansas State, officials said they would determine whether events of more than 100 people scheduled through March 30 would be allowed. The university hasn’t mandated restrictions for university-affiliated or sponsored domestic travel at this time.
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.
Shane Bangerter, the Dodge City chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, said health and safety of university students and employees was of the utmost importance.
"At this time, the board is asking each CEO to decide the educational delivery system for their university," he said. "Because geography and circumstances are different, these decisions are weighty ones that must prioritize health on campuses, while also taking into account the academic success of students and possible consequences for students with limited financial resources."
Fort Hays State University told students and faculty in an email Thursday afternoon to return home for spring break with plans not to return to campus.
An email 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, which starts March 23.
"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."
Wichita State University announced on its website Thursday it will suspend all on-campus classes and transition to online classes starting Monday, March 30. Spring break starts Monday, March 23, and ends Friday, March 27.
Classes scheduled for the week of March 16 will be temporarily suspended, but classes previously online will continue.
"This is a situation that has all of us concerned, yet we must not become panicked," Wichita State President Jay Golden said in the announcement. "It’s important to note that at this time, there are no known COVID-19 cases on our campus in Wichita or Sedgwick County."
So far, administrators at Pittsburg State University haven’t adopted wholesale instructional changes in response to the virus.
Kansas health officials haven’t make public evidence of a COVID-19 case at any of the state universities or the system's community and technical colleges.
Previously, KU officials in Lawrence restricted institution-related travel to China. KU also called off its spring break study abroad travel to Italy.
KU academic programs of study in South Korea, Iran, China and Italy were suspended. Students were asked to return home and to monitor their health for 14 days. If a Lawrence resident, KU students were advised to check in with Watkins Health Services upon returning.
During this online-only period, KU officials said, all student residence halls, scholarship halls and apartments, as well as dining venues, would stay open. Students will be encouraged to stay home as they continue in their classes, but KU said some students need to remain on campus because they can't return home because of travel restrictions or they require access to computers and reliable internet service.
On March 7, Kansas health officials announced the first confirmed case in the state. That Johnson County woman was later placed in isolation at the University of Kansas Health System in Kansas City, Kan. She was apparently infected while traveling in the northeast region of the United States.
Federal authorities said Kansas would receive $5.9 million in aid from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support the COVID-19 response.
Officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have been monitoring and testing dozens of individuals who traveled to areas where the coronavirus has been documented. Three new cases have been confirmed in Johnson County, bringing the state’s total to four.
KDHE Secretary Lee Norman said he understood why half of the Board of Regents universities have decided to alter their calendars.
"It's a risk-based decision making process, basically," said Norman, a physician. "Some institutions are at a lower risk than others, some are at higher risk — certainly larger ones that have a lot of foreign travel."