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CU Boulder cancels in-person classes as coronavirus spreads in Colorado

Classes to move online for the rest of the semester

University of Colorado Boulder student Kathy Li wears a protective mask while walking to class on Wednesday on the campus in Boulder. The university announced it would move classes online starting Monday. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)
University of Colorado Boulder student Kathy Li wears a protective mask while walking to class on Wednesday on the campus in Boulder. The university announced it would move classes online starting Monday. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)

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University of Colorado Boulder will cancel all in-person classes for the rest of the semester starting Monday, joining dozens of universities across the country in switching to online-only education in a bid to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The campus will remain open, as will residence halls, dining halls, libraries, recreation centers, the Center for Community, the health center and University Memorial Center. Students who live on campus are not being encouraged to go home, said spokeswoman Deborah Mendez Wilson. The semester ends May 6.

In a statement Wednesday, Chancellor Phil DiStefano said the changes were proactive steps to protect the campus and community.

“We will continue to fulfill our mission by ensuring that students are able to meet their educational requirements and faculty are able to continue their research and scholarship, and the campus will remain open to allow that to occur,” DiStefano said.

Campus leaders are encouraging employees to work remotely whenever possible and supervisors will identify which student workers, researchers and staff can work remotely by Monday, according to the university.

“The safety of our community is our top priority. We realize that our COVID-19 policy guidelines will cause disruption — and that you will have additional questions based on the above information — but the risk of not acting outweighs the inconvenience of these temporary measures,” DiStefano said.

There were 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Colorado as of Wednesday and no confirmed cases in Boulder County.

The changes at CU Boulder will impact nearly 36,000 students and 10,000 employees as the campus switches to remote learning and work.

Teagan Johnson-Moore reads for a history class on the CU Boulder campus on Wednesday.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

The university is cancelling all multi-day, university-sponsored events and events with more than 150 attendees effective immediately, including the Conference on World Affairs. Event sponsors can request exemptions through the university.

CU Boulder has yet to announce if it will change or cancel athletic events.

“The athletics department is coordinating with campus regarding the new guidance related to events and travel, including non-sports events in our venues,” Spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra said in an email.

It is “too soon” to comment on whether large events such as May commencement ceremonies and the Dead & Company concert in July will take place, Wilson said.

“We will make updates as necessary,” she said.

CU Boulder on Wednesday also cancelled study abroad programs in the Czech Republic, France, Japan and Spain for the rest of the semester. Programs in China, South Korea and Italy were already canceled.

International and domestic travel funded by the university is also canceled effectively immediately.

Staff are currently working on updating university servers to accommodate the additional burden of online-only learning, Wilson said.

Jax Voss has lunch outside the dorms Wednesday on the CU Boulder campus. He said he went to class but it was empty. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

Professors already use the campus’ online learning platform, Canvas, to share class syllabi, readings and assignments. Professors and instructors can also use platforms like Zoom to stream live lectures or record and share them.

Classes that include labs, workshops or art and design studios will reevaluate how to teach the material remotely, according to the university’s website.

“Consider how best to meet the course learning objectives through alternative assignments and class structures,” university guidelines stated. “In the place of experiments, instructors of lab courses may ask students to analyze data or report on published analyses of experimental results.”

University of Colorado campuses in Colorado Springs and Denver also will move to online-only classes, and the system’s Board of Regents will hold a special meeting Friday to discuss the situation.

In a statement, President Mark Kennedy and Board of Regents Chair Glen Gallegos said they supported the campus decisions to change to online-only classes and to limit travel and large gatherings.

“We appreciate how the entire University of Colorado community is stepping up to address the threat, particularly the hard work of our faculty and staff to ensure we continue to deliver great education, even during these challenging circumstances,” Kennedy and Gallegos said.

Boulder’s Naropa University also announced Wednesday it would move its classes online beginning March 30, while officials at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and at Metro State University in Denver announced they would be moving to online-only learning this month.