Univ. of Kentucky announces move to online classes after spring break

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton speaks to local media on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, outside the Main Building in Lexington, Kentucky, after the university announced that classes would be held online until April 6 in response to the local spread of the novel coronavirus. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Kernel News Desk

The University of Kentucky will be moving to online classes for at least the two weeks after the upcoming spring break, a campus-wide email from UK President Eli Capilouto stated.

Online classes will begin on Monday, March 23, and will continue until Friday, April 3. The university plans to resume regular, in-person classes on April 6.

Students are off for spring break next week, with classes resuming online on Monday, March 23.

University officials have said they will continue to work with faculty, staff, and students about “specifics of online and alternative course delivery” in the coming days.

Jay Blanton, UK’s spokesperson, said Wednesday in a press conference that maintaining student success is a priority of the administration’s going forward.

“We’re not going to interrupt their studies. We want our students to be successful,” Blanton said. “We can always evaluate, we’ll be nimble, we can make modifications as necessary, always with the principle in mind of the health and safety of our students and our campus.”

Over the next 24 to 48 hours, the university will also attempt to communicate more information about existing campus services during its hiatus from in-person instruction, including housing and dining, according to Blanton.

A number of residence halls will remain open over the next three weeks to house students who choose to stay on campus, despite health concerns. It’s currently unclear which residence halls will remain open.

“We anticipate that some students, for a lot of reasons, will want to stay or need to stay and we’re going to make accommodations for that,” he said.

Staff operations are expected to remain the same in the coming weeks, but Blanton acknowledged that exceptions will be made to “maximize flexibility” with student workers employed by the university. 

“We are not going to expect folks to be on campus when we’ve got that period of time,” said Blanton. “We also know some students are going to want to continue to work, so we’re going to work with students…This step was not taken with the idea of finances being first, clearly.”

Blanton said the university’s decision to move to online instruction was in part motivated by students’ upcoming travel plans over spring break. 

“When we started to get the numbers around numbers of students traveling—where they were traveling to, and our faculty and staff as well, but mostly students—and then thinking about that creates a higher likelihood for contracting the transmission of the virus. Can we create a window of time where we can kind of manage that,” said Blanton. 

This is a developing story and will be updated.

So far, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has confirmed eight cases in the state since the he announced the state’s first case last week. In response to the first case both Beshear and Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton declared states of emergency.

In a press conference Wednesday morning Beshear said that five of the cases are in nearby Harrison County, two are in Lexington and one is Louisville. 

Beshear encouraged all Kentuckians to avoid crowds or large gatherings, including church services and encouraged the state’s school districts to begin to make emergency plans in case they have to close on short notice.

UK’s announcement came hours after World Health Organization officials declared the virus a global pandemic.

Earlier this week, UK officials asked students to notify the university of their Spring Break travel plans by filling out a voluntary form “so we can support returning travelers and safeguard our community as much as possible,” a campus-wide email sent Monday showed.

UK’s announcement comes a day after Berea College, a private college in Madison County, announced that all of the school’s classes were canceled.

In a campus-wide email sent Monday, Capilouto urged, in bold type, for those with questions about UK’s plan and preparedness for the virus to email [email protected]

The email is closely monitored by the university’s workgroup dedicated to responding to the virus, Capilouto wrote. The email included the following list to maintain good hygiene:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • ​Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Kentuckians with questions about coronavirus are encouraged to visit the Department of Public Health’s COVID19 page or call the state’s coronavirus hotline at 1-800-722-5725. 

UK students and faculty members looking for more information about UK’s response to coronavirus can find updates on UK’s website

The city government website has added a page dedicated to COVID-19.