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CU, CSU and other major Colorado campuses transition to online classes to prevent coronavirus spread

The University of Colorado campus. (File photo)
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One after another, Colorado universities on Wednesday announced plans to transition from in-person classes to online instruction for at least part of the remaining months in the academic year, aiming to curb the spread of the new coronavirus on campuses.

The flurry of announcements trailed a decision made on Tuesday by Colorado College to cancel in-person classes for at least a month and potentially the rest of its academic year in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

University leaders echoed one another in calling out the need to keep their students, staff and faculty safe and minimize the risk of the virus, known formally as COVID-19.

Among the schools to make the leap to online learning is the University of Colorado Boulder, which announced that it will cancel in-person classes for the remainder of its spring semester. Students instead will be instructed virtually, through applications like Canvas and Zoom, starting on Monday. The campus, however, will remain open.

The University of Colorado Denver also plans to convert to remote learning, likely for the rest of the academic year. An email Chancellor Dorothy Horrell sent to the campus community said the institution anticipates fully moving instruction from its Auraria campus classrooms to online by March 30. However, the campus will stay open with students still able to access the residence hall, library and student wellness center.

Metropolitan State University of Denver joined the wave of institutions transitioning to online courses, also announcing in a campus-wide email from President Janine Davidson that it will be fully up and running with remote instruction by March 30. The school, which shares the Auraria campus with CU Denver and the Community College of Denver, will likely keep classes online for the rest of the spring semester. It plans to keep campus open through spring break as it prepares to transition to remote classes.

The Community College of Denver plans to release a decision about its classes on Thursday morning following meetings held by college leaders, according to a spokesperson.

Additionally, Colorado State University is pivoting to online classes at its Fort Collins campus, where spring break will be extended through March 24. Once classes are back in session on March 25, they will be held exclusively online until at least April 10, according to an email sent to students, faculty and staff from President Joyce McConnell. The university will keep its campus open, though, with buildings including resident halls, university apartments and dining halls operating as they normally do, including during spring break.

The University of Denver also will jump to online classes until at least April 10, beginning on March 17. The institution has cancelled its in-person final exams, which start on Tuesday, and will transition to remote or online exams, according to an email that Chancellor Jeremy Haefner sent to the campus community. The school will remain open and will continue to monitor the virus’ reach, determining by March 31 if it will continue with its online classes for the rest of the spring semester.

The Colorado School of Mines, similar to some of its peer institutions, plans to transition to online instruction for all its classes beginning on March 30. Courses will continue online for the rest of the semester, according to an announcement posted on the Golden school’s website, which noted that campus will stay open for the semester. The university is canceling classes during the week of March 16-20 so that faculty can prepare to teach online.

At the University of Colorado’s Colorado Springs campus, students and professors will turn to virtual classes by March 30, according to President Mark Kennedy. Classes will be in session online through at least April 14 and the university is also considering remote work options and — like other institutions — the restriction of large events.

MORE: Is Colorado College the first of many Colorado schools that will cancel in-person classes as coronavirus rages?

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“This is consistent with what several other institutions are doing already,” Phillip DiStefano, CU Boulder’s chancellor, wrote in a letter Wednesday to students, faculty and staff. “… I ask that we show care and compassion for each other as we confront the challenges that COVID-19 poses in our community. We will get through this together.”

The Boulder campus is encouraging faculty and staff to work remotely whenever possible as the coronavirus spreads. All university travel, both foreign and domestic, is also being suspended.

“Effective immediately, the university is suspending education abroad-sponsored  programs in the Czech Republic, France, Japan and Spain through the remainder of the spring 2020 semester,” DiStefano wrote. “Students and their program providers are being notified. Earlier this semester, CU Boulder suspended programs to China, South Korea and Italy through summer 2020.”

Finally, and effective immediately, multi-day university-sponsored gatherings on the Boulder with more than 150 attendees have been suspended “until further guidance is issued,” DiStefano wrote.

CU Boulder will continue to operate its campus facilities. That includes residence halls, dining halls, the University Libraries, student recreation centers, the Center for Community, Wardenburg Health Center and the University Memorial Center.

Universities across the nation — from Princeton to Duke — have been cancelling in-person classes as a response to the outbreak in recent days

There are at least 17 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Colorado. On Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency.

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