UPDATE: NSU officials released a press release stating that classes will go online.
The university will suspend all in-person classes effective at the end of the day Friday, March 13, and transition to online instruction and other remote learning alternatives, the statement read.
”On-line classes will begin Thursday, March 19,” the statement continued. “University offices will remain open all week”
As of publication, no cases of COVID-19 are reported in Natchitoches.
“Sanitation of university facilities has been expanded to include intensive efforts to disinfect and sanitize all surfaces of buildings and other sites,” the statement read.
According to Dr. Greg Handel, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, Northwestern State University will not be moving classes online unless there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 on NSU’s campus.
“At this point, it’s preemptive,” Handel said. “It’s precautionary. We are asking faculty to look at and get familiar with delivery of content and courses via Moodle and via WebEx just to be prepared.”
Handel also said that at the moment NSU is planning to maintain operations with face to face classes, though measures will be taken to ensure that buildings and classrooms are sanitary and clean at all times.
“We have no plans to just make that decision right now,” Handel said. “We are taking it really hour by hour at this point. Our goal is to maintain operations.”
At the same time, most public events have been restricted, sporting events have been cancelled and domestic and international travel has been suspended.
Some students have expressed concern over other universities’handling of the coronavirus outbreak. According to the New York Times, several universities have asked students to not return to campus residence halls after spring break and have closed cafeterias.
An NSU student posted in NSU Student Concerns Wednesday night regarding dormitory closures, specifically asking if NSU would “kick students out” of the dormitories and questioning the status of labs.
Handel, however, said that he wanted to assure students that in the event of a case at NSU, there are contingency plans in place to make sure students are housed and have adequate food supply.
Many changes will also be coming to dining services, especially in Iberville Dining Hall, as numerous precautions are being taken to prevent contamination and potential virus spread.
“We are taking precautions in Iberville and cafeteria services for prepackaged foods and taking a look at the self-service stations,so we cut back on contamination from people touching serving handles,” Handel said. “In the back end, they’re also taking precautions in the kitchen in the preparation of food.”
Handel also mentioned that there have been no conversations about graduation among the administration yet.
“Certainly, as this unfolds, the narrative could change, but from our perspective right now, we will have commencement in May as we always do,” Handel said. “We’re going to do everything we can to do that without putting anyone in danger.”
Student Body President Jacob Ellis said that he is sure that the administration will take action in the best interests of students, faculty, and staff.
“The Student Government Association also will continue to advocate for and represent students who may be affected by the virus,” Ellis said. “We will especially keep students living on campus and students with meal plans in mind as we continue to work with university officials on this situation.
The coronavirus outbreak continues to grow in severity with approximately 1,600 cases reported in the United States as of Thursday evening. Fourteen of these cases are in Louisiana, including one case in Caddo Parish according to the New York Times.
No cases have been reported in Natchitoches or on any of NSU’s campuses.
For more information on the coronavirus, including symptoms, preventative measures and situation updates, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html