The University of Texas at Austin is taking a dramatic step amid increasing concerns about coronavirus. On Wednesday, March 11, the university announced it was extending spring break by one week and implementing new measures to help slow the spread of the virus.
In a letter addressed to the school community, UT president Gregory Fenves laid out his decision to extend spring break by one week. Classes, originally scheduled to begin again on March 23, will now restart on Monday, March 30.
The campus will also remain open during those two weeks, Fenves wrote, and students should plan on returning by March 30.
"I know this is not the spring break we had expected," Fenves wrote in the letter. "Typically, March is a special month, when tens of thousands flock to Austin for South by Southwest and students and community members spend time resting and enjoying new experiences around the nation and the world."
Though they're heading back to class, many students will not be heading back to classrooms. Earlier this week, the university announced that it was shifting many lectures online as a way to continue "social distancing," or the practice "through which individuals avoid group settings and mass gatherings, maintain a safe distance from others and follow good personal hygiene practices whenever possible."
Along with the spring break extension and online lectures, Fenves outlined additional measures the school is taking, including:
- Reconfiguring classroom space and developing alternative instructional modes for classes that must continue to meet in person, such as laboratories and performing arts courses.
- Updating practices in residence halls, dining halls, recreational facilities, and libraries to reduce unnecessary contact and promote better personal hygiene.
- Examining how to support employees and students who have special health needs or are especially vulnerable to the virus.
In addition to exercising precautions, Fenves urged students who suspect they have been exposed to coronavirus to seek medical care using University Health Services or a medical provider.
"I am aware that many of you have had to change your plans, and I appreciate the resiliency you have shown throughout these difficult weeks," Fenves continued. "We must all come together as a community to make the semester as productive as possible."