Board of Governors direct universities to move classes online in response to coronavirus outbreak

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The Board of Governors is encouraging all students to leave campuses for at least two weeks.

The Board of Governors asked all state universities Wednesday to make plans to transition to remote and online instruction as soon as possible. Several state colleges and universities had already put out guidance about the status of on-campus classes and gatherings in the wake of the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. 

As of Wednesday night, 26 people in Florida have tested positive for the coronavirus. Two people have died.

The Board says state universities with students who have already returned from spring break, which includes Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University, Florida Polytechnic University, and the University of Florida, should start to transition to remote instruction immediately and encourage students to return home for at least two weeks.

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 (COVID-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.”

The University of Florida was already moving classes online, which other universities across the U.S. such as Harvard, are also doing. 

UF is planning to deliver the usual summer sessions, but its guidance says it’s possible all the courses will go online.

The Board is also ordering state universities with students who are currently on spring break or about to be on break to direct their students to not return to campus for at least two weeks after the end of the recess. That includes students at Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida State University, New College of Florida, the University of North Florida, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, and the University of West Florida.

FSU announced Wednesday that it was moving classes online for at least two weeks starting March 23. In-person classes could resume April 6. School officials say the university remains open for business. They recommend students take their academic course materials with them when they leave for spring break. 

Florida A&M University had also asked all faculty to be prepared to conduct online or remote instruction, wherever possible. It says online course materials should be prepared by March 22.

FSU and FAMU are both based in Leon County, which has not yet seen any positive cases of the illness.

UCF is moving to remote instruction, starting Monday.

The Board of Governors says all universities will continue to provide essential services, such as dining, counseling, health services, library services, potentially on a limited basis or remotely. Universities with clinical and other non-classroom based programs will communicate directly with those students.

It added that while students are encouraged to stay off campus, every university should develop a plan for providing housing for those who need it.


The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Sarah Mueller

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to [email protected].


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