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Iowa Universities Moving Classes Online Over Coronavirus Concerns

The campanile on the Iowa State University campus.
Alex Hanson
The campanile on the Iowa State University campus.

Updated on Thursday, March 12. Iowa's public universities are moving classes online from March 23 through April 3 as part of their strategies to contain COVID-19. The campuses at the University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Iowa will remain open, including residence halls and dining halls. 

Drake University in Des Moines is asking students to stay home after spring break and attend classes remotely through at least April 3.

Go here for more on how universities are responding and the latest updates on COVID-19 in Iowa.

Original post on Tuesday, March 10: Iowa’s public universities are preparing to offer all classes virtually in order to stop the possible spread of coronavirus on campus. The Board of Regents is asking the campuses in Ames, Iowa City and Cedar Falls to share their plans by Thursday morning.

“It is important for students, faculty and staff to prepare for this eventuality this week prior to spring break,” Regents president Mike Richards said in a statement.

The Regents’ announcement followed word Tuesday that Grinnell College is switching to online classes and telling students to move off of campus by March 23.

Dozens of universities around the U.S. have made similar plans to cancel in-person classes over fears that close quarters among undergraduates could foster rapid transmission of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

“We are committed to taking action now so that we can decrease risk to our community,” Grinnell College president Raynard Kingston said in an explanation of the plans posted online. “While we acknowledge these decisions are disruptive to the remainder of the Spring term, we believe they are essential to the well-being of Grinnellians and the broader community.”

The 1,600 students living on campus are being asked to share where they plan to stay after they leave. Vice President of Academic Affairs, Anne Harris, said some may be allowed to stay in the dorms if leaving would create a significant hardship.

“For example, international students if there are visa concerns,” Harris said, adding that about 20 percent of Grinnell’s enrollment is made up of students from abroad. “If there’s a home situation that doesn’t have wi-fi or wouldn’t have adequate technological support to conduct distance learning, or a situation where there’s a financial duress that makes it difficult for the student to travel. Those are the kinds of things we’re thinking about and, again, case by case working with our students.”

Harris said Grinnell College is not aware of any current connections to cases of COVID-19, Harris said, but college leaders were concerned by the added exposure students would have to coronavirus while travelling over spring break.

Grinnell students are being told to plan on studying remotely at least through the end of the semester.

Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa