JMU announced through email at 6:28 p.m. that it will be moving toward “primarily online learning” no later than Monday, Sept. 7 due to the “troubling public health trends” in the JMU community. The email, signed by President Alger, said the university has spent several months preparing for hybrid instruction. However, the amount of quarantine and isolation space remaining began to concern administration.
According to the email, university officials will spend the next month analyzing health trends and other developments in the JMU and will be in contact by Sept. 25 regarding the possibility of returning to in-person instruction on or after Oct. 5. Currently, decisions regarding refunds have “not been made.”
Although courses will be online, on-campus amenities like dining halls and wellness services will remain open.
“As a result of a rapid increase in the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in our student population in a short period of time, the university is concerned about capacity in the number of isolation and quarantine spaces we can provide,” Alger said in the statement. “Protecting the health of our Harrisonburg and Rockingham County community—including students, faculty, staff—is our top priority, and we need to act swiftly to stop the spread as best we can.”
Additionally, residents are being asked to leave campus by Sept. 7 unless they’re able to apply for an exemption to remain on campus. According to the email, the Office of Residence Life will be in touch with on-campus residents to ensure they’re able to leave campus smoothly.
Some higher-level classes will continue using the hybrid model, such as “accreditation and licensure requirements, graduate research, and specialized upper-class courses requiring equipment and space, through the month of September.”
The email said classes that were initially online-only this semester will continue to operate the way they have been. Additionally, instructors are able to hold in-person classes for the remainder of this week.
As of Sept. 1, the amount of COVID-19 cases recorded on campus was 528. Additionally, 79 isolation beds were available for use with 64 beds remaining.
According to The Breeze’s COVID-19 dashboard, students tested on campus had a positivity rate of 22.35%. Since the beginning of the semester, 152 students tested positive in the University Health Center. The City of Harrisonburg has a total case count of 1,423.
“This is a difficult message to deliver,” Alger said in the statement. “While it is made in the best interest of public health and safety, we know it will come as a disappointment to many. Others may appreciate this change [sic] to engage in online learning given the circumstances.”
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