COVID-19 prompts for campus closure, online classes

As Hastings College prepared for a day taken out of the block five schedule, it was what many thought to be an extra day of spring break. This was done to avoid potential contact between the campus community and returning study abroad class trips in countries with increased concerns over a new virus. Little were students aware that it would be the last time they would be attending in-person classes for the rest of the academic year.

Students left belongings in housing facilities and packed minimally for trips back to their homes or for a spring break vacation; but, in time, were unaware of when they would be able to collect their things and whether or not things would resume later on. For some students, their first year of college was left unfinished while for others, the last remaining weeks of their undergraduate college career were simply erased from physical existence. 

Situations like this happened not only at HC but at almost every other academic institution in the United States and around the world due to the onset and rise of the Novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Students were notified by Roger Doerr, chair of the Board of Trustees and on the acting presidential transition committee, through email on March 18, during spring break, that block six classes would be moved online for the remainder of the school year and campus would effectively close to students unless accommodations needed to be made. This decision was made due to government-issued closures, public gathering limitations, shelter-in-place orders and housing lockdown orders which highly encouraged individuals to stay indoors in order to slow and potentially stop the spread of COVID-19 in their communities.

“We understand this decision will be challenging for our campus but it’s become clear that we, as a community, must do our part to mitigate the spread of the virus and put the health and wellness of people first….The next few weeks are critical to slow the spread of the virus, and the steps we take as individuals and collectively as a community will make a difference. We are resilient and resourceful, and together we will emerge as even stronger Broncos Everywhere,” Doerr said in the email.

At this time, students are in the process of moving out of housing facilities and other communal spaces if they have not already done so and will continue courses online with instruction from their professors on exact operations. Faculty and staff who are able to work from home are being encouraged to do so and administrative offices remain open for contacting and communications of services.

This email came after a series of email updates on the potential impact that COVID-19 could have on the HC community, sent by Matt Fong, associate vice president for external relations, which started on March 6. Over the course of updates initially to inform campus of possible concerns for students studying-abroad during the time, a committee reviewing international and national updates announced the decision on March 9 to allow the one-day-early release of students of in-person class during block five effective on March 13, allowing for no contact with returning students from international trips. Those students who returned from trips, along with faculty and staff present, were advised to go into self-quarantine for the advised 14-day period recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Later on, Jessica Allen-Pickett, associate professor of teacher education, who traveled abroad with students, would be the first to test positive for COVID-19 from the traveling groups.

Through email updates during this time, recommendations starting on March 7 were made for students to plan ahead for potential block six changes by taking home course materials needed in the case that HC may shift to online course work. During this time colleges, universities, college sports conferences and affiliated events across the country were issuing postponements, cancelations or complete closures.

A decision was announced on March 13 to suspend in-person classes for block six until April 14. Classes would commence online and shift to in-person classes upon the return of students to campus. Following this email, the update was
 sent by Doerr announcing campus closure for the remainder of the semester along with his condolences on the effects it would have on students and 
the campus community.

“Students, I want to recognize that this is especially challenging for you. Part of the unique 
Hastings experience is being on campus, in classrooms and at athletic practices, in music and theatre performances and in 
creating art — in essence, learning to live to your amazing potential. I encourage 
each one of you to continue to engage in learning 
as a community, and to support one another as we move through the rest of this semester,” Doerr said in the email.