Fears Of Coronavirus Prompt Cancellation Of School Events, Virtual University Classes

Mar 12, 2020

As of Thursday afternoon, there is not yet a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Cape Fear region.  But school officials are watching the situation closely.  

The University of North Carolina Wilmington has extended its Spring Break through next week.  Nearly all classes, say officials in a campus email, will happen online or with alternative assignments that are not face-to-face beginning March 23rd.  

New Hanover County Schools Chief Communications Officer Ann Gibson says they are postponing field trips that require travel outside the district as well as anything that will draw large crowds – like the upcoming Best Foot Forward event.

" …because this usually draws a large crowd – up to 1400 people and brings 14 schools together.  And so we’re going to postpone that and hopefully reschedule it shortly…We’re monitoring the situation hour by hour because it’s changing so rapidly but there’s no decision to close schools at this time."

Brunswick County School officials say there are not any district-wide cancellations yet.  They meet Friday morning to re-assess.  In the meantime, they’re following recommendations set forth by county, state, and federal health officials. 

But the information that does not change hour by hour or district by district:  wash your hands often, stay home if you don’t feel well, and practice social distancing.   

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New Hanover County Schools March 12th update:  

As news continues to spread around the United States about the coronavirus, New Hanover County Schools is continuing to monitor information from federal, state, and local health officials. We want to assure the public that the district is being proactive in efforts to help prevent the spread of illness among our students and staff.  “We are constantly monitoring guidance regarding COVID-19,” says New Hanover County Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Del Burns. “The situation is extremely fluid and changing rapidly. The district has open lines of communication with health and county officials regarding potential actions and next steps occurring within the Cape Fear region. NHCS will be utilizing the district website, Blackboard Connect, district social media, NHCS-TV, and our internal email to communicate updates.”   New Hanover County SchoolsCoronavirus (COVID-19) Information This statement supersedes all previous communication. Please note that this information is accurate as of March 12, 2020 - 10 AM. We are continuing to monitor this evolving situation, and we will provide updates. Best Foot ForwardMarch 13 event has been postponed. Organizers are researching alternative date and venue options. NHCS-Sanctioned Field Trips

  • In-district NHCS sanctioned field trips will occur as scheduled. 
  • All out-of-district NHCS sanctioned field trips are canceled as of Monday, March 16, 2020. Exceptions will be reviewed by the Interim Superintendent’s designee on a case-by-case basis per principal’s request.

 Professional Development (PD)

  • In-district PD will be held as scheduled. It is strongly advised that virtual options be utilized when available. 
  • PD requiring out-of-district travel is canceled until further notice.
  • No new face-to-face PD is to be scheduled until further notice. 
  • Employee out-of-district travel is canceled until further notice.

 District Events & Meetings

  • Scheduled district meetings and events will occur as planned until further notice.
  • No new district meetings and events are to be scheduled until further notice.
  • All scheduled district meetings and events are subject to change.
  • In keeping with the guidance from state health officials, the following information must be provided to families when promoting the event: “Based on guidance from state health officials, events that attract crowds should be avoided by those aged 65 and older, people with underlying medical conditions and those who are ill.”

 School Events & Meetings

  • Meetings and events at individual schools (i.e., concerts, family engagement events, parent conferences, open houses) may be held as scheduled at the discretion of the principal.
  • In keeping with the guidance from state health officials, the following information must be provided to families when promoting the event: “Based on guidance from state health officials, events that attract crowds should be avoided by those aged 65 and older, people with underlying medical conditions and those who are ill.”

 Facility Use

  • Current facility use of NHCS buildings will continue until further notice and will be reviewed as conditions warrant.
  • There will be no new building rentals until further notice. 
  • Outdoor venues may be available according to regular rental terms.

 Athletic Events

  • Only conference play will be allowed beginning on Monday, March 16 until further notice.
  • In keeping with the guidance from state health officials, the following information must be provided to families when promoting the event: “Based on guidance from state health officials, events that attract crowds should be avoided by those aged 65 and older, people with underlying medical conditions and those who are ill.”

 School Volunteers/Visitors

  • Volunteers/visitors are encouraged to consider the following: “Based on guidance from state health officials, events that attract crowds should be avoided by those aged 65 and older, people with underlying medical conditions and those who are ill.”
  • Volunteers/visitors, who are experiencing symptoms of any illness or possible direct exposure, should refrain from visiting schools.

 Student Attendance

  • Students are expected to be in school each day unless ill or unable to attend due to an unavoidable reason. Students experiencing symptoms of any illness should not attend school until they are symptom free for 24 hours. 
  • Parents of students with serious medical conditions should determine whether their child should attend school based on recommendations by their health care provider.

 While there have been no cases reported in New Hanover County at this time, we want to remind everyone that we are doing everything possible to keep our campuses and buildings safe for everyone. We are asking students, staff, and the community to follow good respiratory etiquette and personal hygiene to prevent the spread of any illnesses. Some tips from health officials include: 

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds each time.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched (like your phone, tablet, countertops, and daily work surfaces).
  • Stay home and away from others when you are sick.
  • Practice social distancing by using fist bumps or elbows instead of shaking hands or hugs.

Guidance / recommendations from New Hanover County:

https://news.nhcgov.com/news-releases/2020/03/new-hanover-county-recommends-social-distancing-for-those-at-risk-implements-event-guidance-in-preparation-of-covid-19/

UNCW email to faculty, staff, and students on March 11th [edited]: 

What does the extension of spring break mean?

Spring break has been extended through next week. Instruction will resume on March 23. Nearly all classes will be conducted through alternative means. This may include online instruction or alternative assignments, at the discretion of instructors. Instructors will provide more information as soon as it is available. Very few courses, if any, will be held face-to-face. Instructors of classes that will resume in person will notify students as soon as possible. Again, this will be a very small number of classes.

Will spring break also be extended for OAP students?

OAP students should adhere to their typical schedule, with classes resuming on Monday, March 16.

If students don’t have a reliable internet connection from off campus and are expected to participate in online instruction, will they be penalized by instructors?

Instructors will be as flexible as possible in managing these unprecedented circumstances. No student will be penalized for an inability to participate in coursework as a direct result of this situation, but students must communicate with their instructors to discuss alternate means of completing coursework if they are unable to do so for any reason, as they would in any situation.

When can resident students return to campus?

Residence halls that were closed for spring break will reopen Sunday, March 15, at 10 a.m. Students won’t be permitted to enter residence halls that had been closed before that time. (Seahawk Landing, Crossing and Village along with University Suites did not close for break.) However, we encourage resident students to wait to return to their residence halls until next weekend (March 21-22), just before instruction resumes on March 23.

When should RA or residence hall desk assistants return to work?

RA and residence hall desk assistants will receive an email from supervisors regarding their return to work. If those employees have not received an email before Thursday, March 12, at 12 p.m., they should contact their supervisors.

Will students be able to attend classes in person beginning March 23?

Very few, if any, classes will be held face to face. We expect the vast majority of instruction to be converted to alternative means, which may include online instruction or alternative assignments. Instructors will be in touch with students as soon as their plans are complete. Students in classes that will resume in person will be notified as soon as possible.

Can students remain off campus, even if they normally live on campus, and attend classes online?

Yes, if instructors are offering instruction online. Many instructors will be providing alternate means of instruction. A small number of specialized classes may occur in person. Instructors will send updates to students regarding plans for individual classes as soon as plans are final. Please be patient as instructors consider these decisions and prepare their materials for alternative course delivery. If students have questions about how they can complete coursework after they have received updates from their instructors, they should respond to their instructors with those questions.

Should student employees report to work as previously scheduled?

Student employees should contact their supervisors for information about returning to work. Residence hall employees will receive an email from their supervisors regarding their return to work.

Are campus services going to be affected by the extension of spring break (campus dining, Randall Library, the Student Recreation Center, etc.)?

The university is still determining the potential impact of this situation on campus services. Each campus service will feature relevant updates on their website. Please check websites before setting out for any campus service location.

What is the latest travel information?

Employees and students can travel to events within NC if there will be fewer than 100 attendees. Employee travel to events expected to include 100 or more attendees is prohibited without the explicit authorization of the chancellor or provost. Students who wish to travel to events within NC that are expected to include 100 or more people should contact their advisors, who will present the request to Student Affairs leadership.

No employee travel outside NC will be funded, sponsored or supported by the university, unless explicitly authorized by the chancellor or provost. Employees should speak to their supervisors if they believe travel outside NC requires special consideration.

No students will be permitted to travel outside NC for university-related business.

How long will travel restrictions be in place?

These restrictions are in place until further notice. The university will update the campus community if the restrictions are lifted or adjusted.

Can people outside of UNCW come to campus events?

The university will not be hosting any events with 100 or more attendees, unless the chancellor or provost authorizes an exception. Individual event websites will feature updates on potential impacts on their events.

Are employees supposed to begin teleworking?

At this point, employees are expected to report for work as previously scheduled. Teleworking has not been mandated. Supervisors will determine if positions will be considered for teleworking. Employees should direct questions to their supervisors. Our campus remains fully open and operational, and therefore an Emergency Condition is not in place.

What impact will this situation have on summer travel-abroad programs?

We do not yet know the long-term impact of this situation. As soon as more information is available, it will be shared with the university community.

Are athletic events being canceled?

Please visit UNCWSports.com for the latest information on potential impacts on upcoming athletic events.

Where should international students direct questions?

International students can email international@uncw.edu and the Office of International Programs will respond as quickly as possible.