Mississippi colleges and universities extend spring break, cancel in-person classes as a coronavirus precaution

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The Institutions of Higher Learning, which oversees Mississippi’s eight public colleges and universities, issued a statement Thursday that all public colleges and universities will transition to alternate methods, such as online and remote instruction.

As colleges and universities across the nation are beginning to close their campuses and shift to online learning in their effort to halt the spread of coronavirus, Mississippi’s institutions are following suit.

The Institutions of Higher Learning, which oversees Mississippi’s eight public colleges and universities, issued a statement Thursday morning that all schools will not return to class until Monday, March 23. Classes will transition to alternate methods, such as online and remote instruction.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are paramount,” Commissioner of Higher Education Alfred Rankins Jr. said. “Our universities are modifying the schedules for the spring semester out of an abundance of caution.”

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Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi University for Women, Mississippi Valley State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi are all already on spring break, which was scheduled to end March 15.

Mississippi had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and on Thursday state officials gathered with the State Department of Health for a press conference.

“The situation remains fluid and university plans are subject to change in response to new information and recommendations received,” Rankins said. “Our goal is to mitigate the risks posed by the coronavirus while maintaining the quality and integrity of our instructional programs.”

The Mississippi Association of Community Colleges has suspended all college athletics until March 30. Mississippi’s 15 community colleges are making decisions about whether to transition to online courses and extend spring break on an individual basis, said Mississippi Community College Board spokesperson Kell Smith.

Mississippi Today reached out to all public universities and community colleges and will update this story as more information is received.

Jackson State University

Acting president Thomas Hudson said in a release “During this extended break, students are encouraged to remain at home and not return to the residence hall. However, JSU will accommodate those students who wish to return.”

Students do not have attend classes in person when classes resume on March 23, but some graduate and professional students may be required to depending on clinical requirements. Dining halls will remain open, according to the release.

University of Mississippi

In a statement, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said “the university will hold all classes and related coursework online or via methods other than in-person, on-campus instruction.” Students are strongly encouraged to stay home, but if they have nowhere to go should call university housing at 662-915-7328 to arrange a living situation. On campus dining and services will remain available to these students on a limited basis, according to the statement.

Mississippi State University

Like the other schools, students will return to classes on March 23 but the university will remain open to faculty and staff to continue work. The university has cancelled all overseas and international travel, such as study abroad programs. Classes will resume in online and alternative formats. All university-sponsored events and gatherings are canceled until March 23. Residence halls and dining facilities will be open for students, and they can continue to live on campus.

Mississippi Valley State University

Students who live on campus are encouraged to return home; students should only return to their dorms if they have “compelling, extenuating circumstances,” the university said in a statement.” Students must let their residence hall directors know whether they plan to stay. When students return on March 23, classes will be taught “through alternative instruction, mainly online, until further notice.”

University of Southern Mississippi

Spring break has been extended to March 27, and when classes resume on March 30 all coursework will be delivered online, according to the university. Student services will remain open, “including residence halls, dining services, libraries, campus recreation, student health services, student counseling services, and other student services.” University events expected to have more than 50 people are canceled.

Delta State University

Spring break has been extended an additional week, and classes will now resume on March 23.  All classes will become online classes. Residence halls are closed and students should not return to campus, according to the school’s website. Students who have no alternate housing options should call the housing office at 662-846-4151. The Statesman’s Shelf Food Pantry inside the Nowell Student Union will be open for students who need help with meals and don’t have meal plans, the school said. Faculty and staff will return to work as scheduled on March 16.

Hinds County Community College

All international and out of state travel is suspended, according to the school.

“On-campus classes are scheduled to resume on Monday, March 23. While it is the current plan to resume normal operations on March 23, faculty and staff are preparing to move to an online instructional program should the situation call for it.
Residence halls on both the Raymond and Utica campuses will reopen at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 22.”

Jones Community College

The college is ending classes a day early on Thursday, but night classes will meet. on Friday students can begin spring break. College employees, faculty and staff are expected to report to work on Friday, faculty will attend conference calls as needed next week during the scheduled spring break.

Itawamba Community College

Spring break is extended to March 23, and students that live on campus are asked to “refrain from returning.” These students should hearing form the college’s housing office by early next week, according to the school. Online learning is still being considered by the school, and all campus activities and events are cancelled.

Northeast Mississippi Community College

Dorms remain closed and in-person instruction on the college’s Booneville, Corinth and New Albany campuses is cancelled beginning Monday, March 16, but faculty and staff should report to work as usual. Online instruction will begin on March 23, according to the school. Any athletic events, extracurricular activities and community-related events scheduled in any of the school’s facilities are canceled until March 30.

Northwest Mississippi Community College

The school’s website states “there are no changes to class or event schedules. The need for any changes will be evaluated on a daily basis.”