MSU Texas extends Spring Break amid COVID-19 preparations

Midwestern State University officials have extended Spring Breakthrough Tuesday, March 24 amid COVID-19 preparations.

The scheduled break for Midwestern was initially scheduled for Saturday, March 14 to Saturday, March 21.

According to officials, MSU Texas offices will remain open during scheduled hours and observe a two-day holiday on Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20.

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“Classes will transition from in-person instruction to online platforms beginning Wednesday, March 25,” Midwestern State University President Suzanne Shipley said in a statement released to students Thursday afternoon.

Shipley stated leadership is reviewing scheduled campus events about cancellations and postponements and will “determine individually” these changes.

“Our top priority is the health and well-being of our students,” Shipley stated. “As leaders in our community, we also have a responsibility to act in such a way that ensures the wellbeing of all. In taking this step, we hope to lessen the effects of COVID-19 and limit exposure to our vulnerable populations.”

While these changes may seem sudden to students, the university had been preparing for such a situation for weeks in advance. Julie Gaynor, director of marketing and public information, said that one of the reasons spring break was extended was to let professors and other faculty adjust to the online-only format.

“We’re hoping we can get everyone ready to go by Wednesday, March 25. We’ve been prepping for this for several weeks, trying to determine scenarios which we would need to do this. Of course, this has been a really rapidly evolving situation, and so it’s accelerated [MSU’s plans] some, but our Distance Education Department has been working on this, lessening that burden on our faculty to help them get that up. So, you know, there’s been a bit of a learning curve. That’s one reason they extended spring break. Just to give our faculty time to get their course material uploaded, and be familiar with that platform,” Gaynor said.

There is no exact timetable on how long classes will be online, but Gaynor said she personally does not believe that classes will remain exclusively online the entire remainder of the semester.

“We’ve left the date open-ended. We’ll start online instruction until further notice. We have to evaluate what is going on with the virus daily, and so I think we’re all very hopeful it’ll just be a couple of weeks, but at least we would have that in case we need to go longer, or there’s the possibility that it could be shortened. I think it’s unlikely [all courses remain online for the remainder of the semester], but there is that possibility. Again, we just don’t know,” Gaynor said.

Director of residence life, Kristi Schulte has stated that while she anticipates many students will spend this time with their families, students who reside on campus will be allowed to stay on campus if they wish to.

“We also recognize we have a significant population of students who rely on on-campus housing as their primary residence. As such, we’ve made the decision to allow students to remain on campus if they choose to do so.  Organizationally, we are functioning very similar to the way we do during regularly scheduled break housing periods,” Schulte said.

Despite there being no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wichita County, MSU officials anticipate the virus will eventually make its way onto campus. Based on this assumption, certain dorm rooms in Pierce Hall will be reassigned to students who catch the virus.

“We recognize that the virus will make its way to campus at some point.  As a proactive measure to designate a separate area for students who become ill, Residence Life & Housing began consolidating room assignments in Pierce Hall prior to spring break.  Students without roommates have been reassigned to new spaces in the building and remaining groups of roommates have been moved to other open rooms,” Schulte said. “This allows us to better manage our resources while working to contain the spread of the virus.”

For students outside of Pierce Hall, the only significant change to residential living is that guests will no longer be able to stay overnight.

“Overnight guests will not be permitted until face-to-face instruction resumes on campus in an effort to support social distancing efforts.  Students who violate this directive will be adjudicated through our student conduct process,” Schulte said.

This story is breaking, so return for more information from officials.

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