Univ. of Kentucky to stay online for rest of semester; Students have 10 days to move.

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton speaks to members of the local media Tuesday, March 17, 2020, after it was announced this morning that UK classes will be online-only for the remainder of the semester due to the spreading of the novel coronavirus in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Rick Childress

University of Kentucky classes and instruction will remain online for the rest of the semester, an all-campus email announced on Tuesday morning. 

The university previously planned to return from online classes on April 3, but UK President Eli Capilouto wrote that classes will remain online through the end of the semester. 

“This is not where we wanted to be,” UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said at a press conference after the email was sent. “But it’s where we need to be to protect the health and safety of everyone in the UK community.”

Residence halls will need to be vacated by noon on Friday, March 27, Blanton said.

The university will make an announcement that better details the move out plan by Thursday, the email stated.

Students can apply to remain on campus, but otherwise are required to return home. Blanton said a number of international students, who live on-campus but can’t travel home, will be accommodated by the university.

“We need the vast majority of our students to make arrangements to move home to complete their studies this semester,” Blanton said.

The university is also developing a process to refund students for housing and dining costs. Those details will also be communicated at a later date, Blanton said.

The university is currently on spring break, with online classes slated to begin on Monday, March 23. Some students have largely already moved out.

The semester completion date will stay the same, Capilouto wrote. But the end-of-semester commencement ceremonies, typically held in Rupp Arena, are postponed.

“There will be a Commencement to celebrate the remarkable achievements of our Spring 2020 graduating class; we will schedule it for a time when we are able to do so in a healthy and safe environment,” the email stated. 

“Nothing is off the table,” said Blanton on how the university might conduct a later commencement. He said the university hasn’t made a decision yet.

Beginning Wednesday, supervisors and department chairs will have to determine which faculty and staff should remain on campus for the rest of the week to ensure that certain critical operations still work. The rest will be asked to work from home. 

Blanton said those critical operations included many of the healthcare workers, public safety employees, certain lab employees and the on-site staff needed to support the university’s online classes.

Employees who do not support those critical operations will be asked to work remotely through the rest of this week and many of them will remain remote after this week. Department heads and supervisors are required to submit plans by tomorrow, Blanton said.

“We will be especially attentive to our employees who are at risk and our employees who care for family members at risk,” the email stated.

Capilouto promised more information about how the rest of the semester will be managed. 

“We are developing a plan for the operation of the campus that is equally sensitive to the needs of our students and the health and well-being of our staff and faculty,” the email stated. “For many, remote work will continue after this week. Others will be reporting to campus continuously or on an ad hoc basis to support basic operations.”

This story is developing, and will be updated.