College administrators and staff worked all summer to make plans for educating students, in many cases on their campuses, this fall. But as students began to trickle back to campus this week it has quickly become clear that this is challenge that almost no amount of planning could prepare for.
Over the summer the virus spread among young adults and college age students in many parts of the country and as a result only 22% of colleges are conducting classes on campus this fall.
While classes began only a week ago, as of today a report from UNC’s Campus Health Services indicated a significant rise in positive COVID-19 tests over the week of Aug. 10-16.
In response, today the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced an abrupt about face as they told their community that the undergraduate school would be going to fully remote learning, beginning on Wednesday August,19. UNC also stated that it was working on ways to reduce the density of the dorms. The university announced that students would be able to cancel their housing contracts with no penalty.
The action came as a response to a report from Campus Health Services that indicated a significant rise in positive COVID-19 tests over the week of Aug. 10-16. At the time of the announcement, 177 students were in isolation and 349 were quarantined on and off campus. The positivity rate on Covid tests has risen from 2.8 percent to 13.6 percent in only a week.
In a joint email to the community Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and Provost , Robert A. Blouin said, “Since launching the Roadmap for Fall 2020, we have emphasized that if we were faced with the need to change plans – take an off-ramp – we would not hesitate to do so, but we have not taken this decision lightly.”
As much as we believe we have worked diligently to help create a healthy and safe campus living and learning environment, we believe the current data presents an untenable situation. As we have always said, the health and safety of our campus community are paramount, and we will continue to modify and adapt our plan when necessary.
UNC is the first and largest school to pivot to remote learning after inviting students back to campus. But, sadly, we fear that it will not be the last.