University of Saint Mary stepped up health safety procedures for benefit of students and employees on the private Catholic school’s campus in Leavenworth.
The 1,400-student university in northeast Kansas is among dozens nationally contemplating or implementing changes in wake of the likely spread of COVID-19. Some colleges and universities have delayed restart of classes after spring break, transitioned to online rather than in-person instruction, limited travel and restricted attendance and larger events.
John Shultz, vice president for marketing and admissions at University of Saint Mary, the university’s command team was monitoring the coronavirus and relying upon guidance from the Leavenworth and Johnson county health departments.
"At this juncture, we are not planning on delaying the start of classes, but have been taking measures to ensure that classes can be offered remotely if the need arises," he said. "We have stepped up cleaning protocols across campus to ensure that buildings are cleaned and sanitized as needed throughout the day."
Fort Hays’ calculation
Fort Hays State University is preparing for the possibility of moving courses online if the spread of the coronavirus intensifies.
At this point, the university plans to continue regular classes until spring break, which starts the week of March 23, and resume classes after the break, said Jill Arensdorf, the university's provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Fort Hays State has an enrollment of 5,800 undergraduate students.
"In the event that we had to shift our offerings this or any other semester, online courses would certainly be part of our solution," Arensdorf said. "We know that there are other courses that might be challenging to move online, so plans are being developed for those courses."
Already, Fort Hays State has altered courses it offers face-to-face in China to deliver them fully online.
Kansas State University
An emergency management group at Kansas State University is meeting daily to evaluate spread of the new coronavirus in case it reaches the Manhattan campus.
Michelle Geering, public information officer for K-State, said the group is tasked with ensuring the university’s emergency preparedness plans are up to date. Additionally, she said, a committee focused on infections disease is coordinating preventative measures.
"At this time," Geering said, "there are no changes to university operations. The situation is rapidly changing."
The vice president for academic affairs at Washburn University in Topeka told faculty on Wednesday to prepare for the possibility of moving courses online.
JuliAnn Mazachek in an email to faculty said academic offerings will continue to operate normally, but "we recognize this could change suddenly as the spread of COVID-19 occurs."
"I ask each faculty member to begin to review your courses and evaluate possible alternative ways of delivering your courses when faculty and students cannot meet as usual," Mazachek said. "We do not yet know if this will be necessary but want you to be as prepared as possible."
Garden City Community College
Officials at the 2,000-student Garden City Community College are monitoring the situation with COVID-19 and disseminating information about limiting spread of the virus.
Shajia Donecker, GCCC public relations and marketing coordinator, said the college hadn’t adopted changes in operations.
"We’re working with local officials at the hospital to disseminate the right information about the virus and continue to make sure any student that exhibits these symptoms gets the immediate attention they need if it comes to that," she said.
Donecker said GCCC wasn’t planning to delay start of classes after spring break, which runs from March 16-20.
In McPherson, Central Christian College adopted a plan making minor changes to spring break in regard to COVID-19.
It centers on deepening communication with students who are traveling, but 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. "We are keeping the dorms open over break, providing students the chance to remain on campus."
The framework is in place to convert to online instruction if necessary, Favara said.
The growing incidence of COVID-19 led Pittsburg State University to activate its critical response management team that gathers daily to work on contingency plans and strategies to reduce exposure.
Efforts to disinfect high-traffic areas have been stepped up, a university official said, and students, faculty and staff have been given online resources to protect themselves from exposure. Pittsburg State suspended all university-led international travel for the remainder of the semester.
The challenge of dealing with a university population on holiday came up during the Crawford County Commission’s meeting.
"It’s going to be interesting with spring break coming and what they’re going to do as far as go or not go, I guess," said Commissioner Tom Moody.
Representatives from Kansas Wesleyan University and Salina Area Technical College in Salina said they hadn’t made changes to class schedules.
Greg Nichols, president of the technical college, said the school sent an email to students and faculty before spring break with health advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nichols 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.
Bethel College in North Newton is continuing to convene classes on campus while operating in a meeting-and-monitoring mode.
"Classes, gatherings and events remain scheduled as is until further notice," said Tricia Clark, director of institutional communications at the college.
The college's annual spring break is March 23-27 and officials anticipate on-campus activities to resume March 28.
"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. Bethel will notify the general public via website and social media if changes are made to alter the routine of campus."
Wichita State University
Wichita State University’s pandemic team recommended students, faculty and staff provide the university with details of personal international travel through the end of the spring semester.
The information would be used to expedite communication with Wichita State instructors, supervisors and local health officials if a person had to be quarantined or otherwise delayed in returning to the U.S.
Camille Childers, director of Student Health Services at Wichita State and leader of the pandemic team, said people also should notify Wichita State if under investigation by Sedgwick County or if they have decided to self-quarantine.
The university’s information technology division is preparing for a large number of campus employees or students to work or take classes remotely.
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. HutchCC will do everything possible to accommodate our students in the event it becomes necessary," he said.
The college increased access to hand sanitizers; upgraded cleaning of "highly touched" areas, such as handrails; and expanded health information available to students, he said.
Pratt Community College
Pratt Community College has plans in place and is working on alternatives to cope with coronavirus, said PCC President Michael Calvert.
At this time, there are no plans to delay start of classes after spring break or move all classes online. Calvert said the college has the ability to notify everyone at the college at a moment’s notice if the situation changes.
If it becomes necessary to move classes online, the transition could be completed in 48 hours.
"In two days, we can be up and running," Calvert said.
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.