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March 10, 2020

Coronavirus and colleges: Penn, Temple, West Chester U. switch to online classes for rest of spring semester

Philadelphia-area colleges respond to COVID-19 outbreak with frequent updates

Illness Coronavirus
Philly Coronavirus Universities Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia-area colleges are frequently updating their plans to prevent the coronavirus outbreak from spreading to local campuses. The University of Pennsylvania, pictured above, is making preparations to hold online classes. Nearly all the colleges in the region have dedicated webpages for coronavirus updates. Those links are in the article below.

Colleges in the Philadelphia area are combating the spread of the coronavirus by moving classes online, extending spring breaks, and restricting gatherings on campus in the coming weeks and months.

Most colleges already have canceled sponsored trips and classes overseas in the wake of COVID-19. Those who are returning from international travel, or planing to travel, are being required to self-monitor at home for 14 days before returning to campus. The same is asked of visitors.

So far, two colleges in the region – University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University – have taken the most aggressive action of moving all classes and coursework online for the remainder of their spring semesters. West Chester announced the move Tuesday, and Penn made decision Wednesday.

Links in the headings below will take you to each university's dedicated page for coronavirus information and updates.

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania has mandated students will complete the remainder of the spring semester, including final exams, remotely and all classes would be conducted online to prevent potential COVID-19 infections on campus, president Amy Gutmann announced Wednesday.

Penn students were due back from spring break this weekend. The university has extended spring break by one week and classes will resume online March 23.

Students who are away from the school currently, should not return, Gutmann said, and those who are at the University City campus should depart by Sunday, March 15. College officials will coordinate with those off campus to come collect their belongings.

Penn will support students living in college housing who are unable to return home for various reasons.

Penn's medical, dental, veterinary and nursing students who are doing clinical rotations will continue those and be provided additional information from their respective deans.

Gutmann also was among the Ivy League university presidents who voted unanimously to cancel all spring sports. All spring athletic competitions and practices have been canceled, the Ivy League announced Wednesday. It will be up to each college whether teams and individual students who have qualified for postseason competitions will participate in those events.

  • SYMPTOMS: Coronavirus vs. Other respiratory illnesses
      • Fever, cough, shortness of breath
      • Itchy eyes, stuffy nose, sneezing
      • Fever, cough, body aches, fatigue, chills, headache and possibly sneezing, stuffy nose and a sore throat
      • Sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat and possibly coughing, slight aches, fatigue, fever
  • Anyone with coronavirus symptoms should stay home and call their doctor. More information can be found on the CDC's website. Philly residents can text "COVIDPHL" to 888777 for updates on the coronavirus, and anyone in Greater Philadelphia can call the coronavirus hotline at 800-722-7112.

On Tuesday, the Ivy League opted to cancel it men's and women's conference basketball tournaments.

Drexel University

On Tuesday, Drexel expanded its travel ban for students and faculty. All education abroad programs are discontinued for the spring term. Students currently abroad on college-affiliated programs who are in "non-high-risk countries" are permitted to stay to complete they studies. Students can find refund information through the Office of Global Engagement and Education Abroad.

Drexel is now imposing a ban on all university-related international travel, and the university is canceling all non-academic events on campus that involve participation of people from outside Drexel, except for Colonial Athletic Association sports events and admissions programs. Those will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis through the end of April.

A memo from Drexel University on Monday suggested that students and instructors should be ready for the possibility of online final exams. Courses may also be moved online.

"Final exams will be held as planned next week but students should anticipate the possibility that exams may be conducted online, rather than in a classroom setting," the university said. "This issue is under intensive review by the Provost's Office in consultation with the deans and faculty. We are also assessing the feasibility of moving undergraduate and graduate courses online, if necessary."

West Chester University

 West Chester University is the first local college to move entirely to online classes for the remainder of the spring semester. The largest school in the Pennsylvania state system made the move Tuesday, during West Chester's spring break, with an announcement from university president Christopher M. Fiorentino, who noted there had not been any confirmed cases of COVID-19 on campus.

To prepare for the switch to online classes, students will remain on break until March 30. Classes already being offered online will resume as scheduled on March 16.

Fiorentino said West Chester's dorms and on-campus apartments will not reopen and the university will be in contact with individual students to schedule times for them come collect their belongings.

Thomas Jefferson University

Thomas Jefferson University suspended all university-related international travel on Tuesday.

Thomas Jefferson University previously started restricting internal meetings and university events to prevent groups, both large and small, from assembling.

"We strongly advise against university supported in-person gatherings where we are anticipating 30 or more attendees through May 12," Jefferson officials said. "For all internal meetings, consider using audio visual technologies such as Zoom (can be used across mobile devices, desktops, and telephones) or phone conferencing."

University events at Jefferson will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they will be held.

Temple University

Temple University announced it will end in-person instruction on Friday, March 13. Online and alternative learning methods will begin Monday, March 16. 

Students in Temple housing should vacate as soon as possible, but no later than Saturday, March 21 at 5 p.m. Those who need to stay longer may request an extension, while international students will be permitted to remain in university housing until the end of the semester. 

University staff are expected to continue reporting to work as usual, taking precautions as advised. Offices and research labs will remain open until further notice. 

The university urges the community to postpone or cancel all non-essential events until further notice and consider alternatives to in-person events.

Travel suspensions and restrictions have been implemented in accordance with federal guidelines and recommendations. All university-affiliated international travel for faculty, staff and students has been suspended through the end of the spring semester, unless approved by the provost. 

"This is a significant transition, and we know that it may be difficult and raise many questions," Temple said in a statement. "We promise to work diligently with the university community in the days to come to help make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone."

Villanova University

Villanova announced it will suspend all in-person classes beginning on Monday, March 16, 2020. All courses will be taught solely online, but students will have the option to complete instruction either on campus or at home. 

University events will also be canceled as of March 14 through at least April 14. 

All other university employees and services will continue to operate as usual, including faculty research. 

"We take these measures out of an abundance of caution in order to safeguard the well-being of our students, faculty and staff. 

Students who are not feeling well, especially those who have been traveling internationally, are urged to contact the campus student health center. If a student is then required to self-monitor at home for 14 days, the student's absences will be considered excused.

Rowan University

In a message to students on Tuesday, an administrator at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, said students living on campus will be provided a container of Clorox wipes this week and said that students should follow the Centers for Disease Control's guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting the high-touch surfaces their dorms. Campus housekeeping staff will continue cleaning common areas in buildings with extra attention being paid to high-touch surfaces and bathrooms.

Rowan previously announced it would extended its spring break. Students and staff will now resume classes on March 27 instead of March 23. The university will use the extended break to develop plans for a potential switch to virtual classes.

Rutgers University

Rutgers will begin its spring break two days early on Thursday, March 12, at all of its New Jersey campuses: Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick. Beginning Monday, March 23, through at least Friday, April 3, all classes will be conducted online, university president Robert Barchi announced Tuesday.

Students who live in residence halls should leave campus as soon as possible and remain away until April 3, Barchi said. Rutgers offices, labs and other services will remain open during that time.

La Salle University

Like other colleges, La Salle University has suspended its international travel programs. It has also canceled school-sponsored spring-break and volunteering trips to Kentucky and North Carolina, where states of emergency have been declared because of the coronavirus. La Salle officials say they are likely to cancel similar domestic trips if those destinations declare states of emergency, as well.

The university is also helping professors and other instructors prepare to move their classes online.

"We are in a period of great uncertainty. For this reason, professors and instructors are asked to prepare to lead their courses in a digital setting, in case the situation should worsen and require such measures," La Salle administrators said in message posted on the school website.

Stockton University

On Tuesday, Stockton University extended its spring break by two days, from March 15-24. When it ends, students will attend classes online March 25 to April 5. The campus will be open during that time, but students are being "strongly encouraged to continue their studies at home."

University of the Sciences

The University of the Sciences has moved most coursework online and is recommending that most students try to reside off campus. 

Residence halls will remain open and are available to students who may need to remain on campus.  Guests to all residence halls will be limited to enrolled USciences students and guests may not stay overnight in the residence halls.  Any student who needs to remain in residence on campus should complete the Stay Request Form.

Those who visit the dining halls are encouraged to use takeout containers to minimize congregating in large groups. The Athletic Recreation Center will be closed until further notice. 

St. Joseph's University

St. Joe's is helping faculty prepare to switch to virtual classes. Instructional continuity plans are required from all instructors to handle self-monitoring students and larger disruptions that may arise from COVID-19. The switch will be made beginning March 19. 

Chestnut Hill College

Chestnut Hill has closed its campus until Sunday, March 15 to conduct a deep clean and disinfect its facilities. Faculty, staff and students are not expected to report. Residential students are urged to leave campus. The college may opt for alternative course delivery methods, including telecommuting, beginning next week. A decision will be announced by Saturday, March 14. 

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