Last updated: August 27, 2020 - 1:45pm
BLOOMSBURG — Beginning Monday, Bloomsburg University will shift students almost entirely to online courses in response to an outbreak of coronavirus cases among students.
The university on Wednesday reported that 40 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed since Monday. Overall, at least 90 people tied to the university have tested positive for the highly contagious illness during the nine days since students returned to classes Aug. 17.
The university will decide no later than Sept. 21 how it will proceed with classes scheduled to begin Oct. 7.
Students living on-campus who opt to leave campus and take courses from home will be reimbursed for “unused portions” of room and board fees, according to the university.
Students will also be eligible for reimbursements for student fees they paid and won’t benefit from.
“We have seen a concerning trend in positive COVID-19 cases within the BU community,” Bloomsburg University President Bashar W. Hanna said in an email to students and faculty Thursday announcing the move to virtual classes.
“With care and concern for the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff, their families and our neighbors in the Town of Bloomsburg, it is clear that we must make this transition and modify our on-campus operations to protect our community from the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus.”
For the second straight day Thursday, Columbia County, where BU is located, had its biggest increase of newly confirmed coronavirus cases in 4 1⁄2 months, with 16 new cases reported, according to the state department of health.
That surpassed Wednesday’s 14 new cases reported.
Columbia County hasn’t seen that large a jump in new positive cases since the county reported 20 on April 17.
"Over the last several months, as we prepared for the fall semester, our plan was to provide our students the in-person educational experience this fall that the COVID-19 virus had taken from them last spring," Hanna wrote. "We also stated that we would continuously monitor any developing incidence rates within our community and respond accordingly should the circumstances warrant."
We'll have more on the announcement later today and in Friday's Press Enterprise.
Here's President Hanna's full letter:
Dear BU Family,
Over the last several months, as we prepared for the fall semester, our plan was to provide our students the in-person educational experience this fall that the COVID-19 virus had taken from them last spring. Because the health and safety of the entire BU community has remained our highest priority, we ensured that our “Back to Bloom” plan followed federal and state health guidelines. We also stated that we would continuously monitor any developing incidence rates within our community and respond accordingly should the circumstances warrant.
Unfortunately, the circumstances have changed, and we have seen a concerning trend in positive COVID-19 cases within the BU community. After consultation with my leadership team, the members of our Council of Trustees, and the Office of the Chancellor, I have decided that, effective Monday, August 31, BU will transition to remote learning for all courses in progress. A determination regarding classes scheduled to begin on Wednesday, October 7th will be made no later than Monday, September 21st. With care and concern for the safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff, their families, and our neighbors in the Town of Bloomsburg, we must make this transition immediately and modify our on-campus operations to protect our community from the continued spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Thanks to the dedication of our faculty and staff, and with the experience of last semester, I know that we are well-positioned to provide yet again a high-quality remote learning environment this semester. The following are a few other important items for students:
All Courses Remote with Exceptions: All undergraduate and graduate courses in the Zeigler College of Business and the College of Education will switch to remote instruction, as will the majority of courses in the College of Science and Technology and the College of Liberal Arts. Exceptions may be made on a case by case basis for specific courses such as clinicals and labs as we continue to monitor these classes. Students in labs and clinicals whose courses will continue in person will receive further communication from their respective deans no later than 5 pm today. Student teachers should continue to follow the expectations of their school district site. Thesis students will be able to continue their research.
On-Campus Living: Students who reside on-campus will not be required to leave their residence halls. Those who do choose to return home will be reimbursed for the unused portions of their room and board fees. Our Residence Life staff members and community assistants will be working with all on-campus students to guide and support them. Further, certain on-campus facilities (including the Rec Center) will be available to on-campus residents only.
Student Fees: All applicable unused fees will be reimbursed as appropriate, and we will share a more detailed communication next week about the reimbursement of these fees. We thank you in advance for your patience as you await that communication.
Student Clubs and Organizations: Effective immediately, all clubs and organizations (including fraternities and sororities) must suspend all in-person activities. They may continue to hold meetings 100% virtually. Any students or groups who do not abide by this emergency policy will be held accountable pursuant to our Student Code of Conduct.
Questions and Concerns: While we make this transition to remote learning, we remain committed to our students, their health and wellness, and their overall success. Students with health concerns should contact the Student Health Center (570.389.4451) or their primary care provider. Please note that the Student Health Center will remain open and all services will be available to students. Students who have questions about their classes should contact their department chair or respective dean. For any questions regarding student clubs and organizations, please contact our Dean of Students Office (570.389.4734).
In closing, I thank all my colleagues for their cooperation, patience, and support over the past several months. I also express my gratitude to all students, faculty, and staff for adhering to our safety requirements for the sake of their fellow Huskies and our Bloomsburg neighbors. I know that this announcement will be a disappointment to many of you – and I share your disappointment. But I am confident that we will work together in support of our students during this transition over the coming days to ensure a successful fall semester.
Please continue to mask up, Huskies, and stay safe!