Florida universities move online to avoid coronavirus

UF, FSU, UNF, UCF announce all in-person classes will temporarily move online

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are currently no COVID-19 cases linked to any of any universities or colleges in Florida but every one is taking precautions to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus on campus.

Weeks ago, colleges started canceling international trips and study abroad programs to areas hit hard by COVID-19, including China and Italy. More recently, schools began canceling or postponing sporting events. By Wednesday, most major universities announced they will temporarity suspend in-person classes and move all instruction online temporarily.

As the deadly coronavirus continues to spread, “it has become clear that to protect the students and the residents of our state, proactive rather than reactive guidance to universities is necessary,” officials with the state university system said in a statement.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday that asking instructors to prepare for online classes is “the prudent thing to do.”

“I think we are preparing to see more (CODIV-19) cases,” the governor told reporters at a press conference in the Capitol. “So I think it is prudent for them to do it and then they can reassess in real time as we go.”

Scroll down for specific information for each institution.

University of Florida

On Wednesday, the University of Florida emailed all faculty instructing them to move classes online no later than March 16 to avoid face-to-face contact.

UF Provost Joe Glover sent a memo to academic deans Monday to recommend the change, but that changed to a mandate on Wednesday.

UF told instructors they should continue to follow their syllabus, assignment and exam schedules.

“The university will make every effort to be considerate of instructor and student concerns during this unprecedented situation,” a statement from the university said.

Florida State University

Florida State University announced Wednesday it will also shift from in-person classes to online classes by March 23 -- the Monday students resume coursework after spring break. Students who leave campus should take with them any devices, textbooks and other materials they will need to continue their coursework remotely.

FSU expects to resume face-to-face classes on April 6.

They already have plans to have any students in quarantine continue their coursework remotely.

In a message, the university also encouraged parents to talk with their student about ways to stay healthy and discuss plans if the student is required to self-quarantine for a two-week period for any reason.

“Your plan should include a possible quarantine location that is not a shared living space, residence hall or multi-occupancy apartment,” the message posted on the FSU website reads.

The university said it was coordinating with the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA about athletic events.

FUS has suspended all international university-related travel to avoid the spread of COVID 19. Anyone students, faculty or staff who travels on their own to any of the countries on the CDC and State Department’s banned list or on a cruise ship to self-quarantine for 14 days.

University of North Florida

The University of North Florida announced Wednesday it is temporarily transitioning all in-person teaching to remote instruction for the two-week period following the completion of spring break week, March 15 to March 22.

Following UNF’s scheduled spring break, coursework will continue through virtual online teaching for two weeks, March 23 to April 5. UNF plans to resume face-to-face teaching on April 6, but the university said that date could change.

During the two-week period following spring break, the UNF campus will remain open, including all residence halls, dining services, the library, student health services and the counseling center. The university, however, encourages students to travel home and remain away from campus, if possible, during that two-week period.

The 2020 spring commencement has been cancelled.

UNF has also suspended all international university-related travel for the spring and summer terms.

Jacksonville University

With Jacksonville University students, faculty and staff return from their spring break next week, Jacksonville University will move all classroom instruction online through April 3, giving students the option to stay home for another three weeks if they choose.

“We realize these measures will be disruptive and create challenges for some of you, but the health of our campus community is our highest priority," President Tim Cost wrote in an email Wednesday afternoon.

All other normal campus operations will continue on Monday, March 16 and the campus will remain open. Staff will continue reporting to work.

JS said there are no known cases of COVID-19 among members of the JU community and the university does not believe that there is any immediate risk to the campus. JU said Student Health Service and other university partners are proactively monitoring the situation and are following guidelines from the CDC and the World Health Organization.

Students and staff who have traveled internationally are asked to fill out an online form so school officials can track them, and those already out of the country are being advised to return immediately.

A women’s lacrosse game against Boston University scheduled for Tuesday afternoon was canceled because some of the BU players were sick. There was no announcement of other changes to athletic events, but based on the NCAA announcing Wednesday that the annual basketball regional tournaments and national championship would be held without fans, there could be some changes to other collegiate games.

Florida State College at Jacksonville

Florida State College at Jacksonville said it is closely monitoring updates related to COVID-19.

“We will continue to monitor this outbreak and remain in close communication with the Duval and Nassau County Health departments for local planning regarding the novel coronavirus using up-to-date guidance from state and federal health officials,” FSCJ said in a message posted on its website.

FSCJ also advised those looking to travel over the break to refer to the CDC’s information regarding frequently asked questions.

Flagler College

The morning after a New York visitor to St. Augustine tested positive for COVID-19, Flagler College canceled classes Friday, starting the scheduled spring break one day early -- and students were encouraged to return to their permanent residence through April 3. All students should take academic materials including books and laptops, health information, as well as other critical information or supplies before leaving for spring break as the college will move to online classes when spring break ends March 23.

The Flagler College campus and regular services will remain open to students, faculty and staff during this two-week period, including residence halls, Flagler Security and the dining hall, unless otherwise notified.

In addition, Flagler is canceling all public and student-related events during this two-week period from March 23 to April 3. Public tours of the campus were canceled effective immediately.

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida will begin remote instruction on Monday, March 16, when students and faculty return from spring break.

“UCF has no confirmed cases of COVID-19. We continue working with local and state health departments and taking proactive steps to help our community be prepared,” reads the president’s message, which was posted on the UCF website.

Students with any health concerns can contact Student Health Services at 407-823-2509.

In addition to canceling all study abroad trips planned through the summer semester, UCF has added Azerbaijan, China, Hong Kong, Italy, Iran, Japan, Mongolia, South Korea and Turkmenistan to a list of places where any university-related travel will be canceled.

University of South Florida

In the Tampa area, where Florida’s first COVID-19 cases were reported, the University of South Florida has canceled all school-related international travel over Spring Break -- that includes studying abroad and conferences.

Florida A&M University

All FAMU announced that face-to-face instruction would be suspended when students return from spring break on March 23. Faculty members were told to offer remote instruction for at least two weeks.

All on-campus gatherings and events that require community participation have been canceled. The Orange & Green Game will proceed without fans in attendance, while other athletic events will be held as scheduled.

FAMU has immediately suspended all university-related international travel for the foreseeable future and strongly urged all students, faculty and staff to reconsider plans for personal international travel. In addition, all university-related domestic travel is prohibited unless approved by the divisional vice president or President Larry Robinson.

Edward Waters College

Edward Waters College extended its spring break an additional week through March 20. Now, the college has decided to transition to online instruction beginning March 23 and continuing through the end of the semester, May 7.

Faculty, staff and students are required to update their contact information in Tiger Alert, the EWC Emergency Notification Service, by using the following link: https://www.e2campus.net/my/ewc/index.htm. In addition to updating Tiger Alert, all students must also update their contact information in self-service via the college’s website or www.portal.ewc.edu.

Faculty will be required to transition all academic courses from face-to-face delivery to online instruction by March 23. In order to support faculty during this transition, the college will provide mandatory training to all faculty beginning Tuesday and each day thereafter through Thursday. Faculty will receive a hyperlink to their EWC email account, which will contain log-in instructions for faculty to register and access the training. Click here to view the schedule of daily online training sessions for faculty.

More info

The situation is changing day by day -- and so are the schools’ plans. So for the latest, go to their websites. They all have pages devoted to the coronavirus.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.