UPDATE: Houston universities extending breaks, switching online to help prevent spread of coronavirus

Update at 5:07 p.m. March 17

Houston Community College announced classes will reopen March 30 for students, according to a March 17 press release sent at 3:20 p.m. Depending on the course, HCC will provide instruction via online, small groups and/or by appointment.

"As we approach March 30, students will hear directly from their faculty about the changes to classroom instruction for each course and a comprehensive plan will be available on the HCC website," the release states.

HCC staff and faculty are still expected to return to work on March 23, but the institution expects the majority of employees will work remotely.

Additionally, the release stated that HCC Coleman College for Health Sciences is working to determine who within the campus has been exposed to an individual with coronavirus.

"Both of the Coleman College buildings are being cleaned and sanitized per the CDC’s disaster recovery cleaning guidelines," the release reads. "They will be cleared to re-open when the College resumes classes on March 30,"

Meanwhile, the HCC Felix Fraga Academic Campus received confirmation that the individual who possibly exposed the campus to coronavirus tested negative for the virus, per the release. The campus has completed disaster recovery cleaning and it bill be cleared to reopen March 30.

Update at 3:40 p.m. March 12

Houston Baptist University has announced it will cancel classes March 16-20, effectively extending its spring break by a week.

Class will resume in online or alternative formats on March 23 until further notice, the university said.

Update at 11:40 a.m. March 12

Area college and universities have joined UH in announcing measures to help prevent potential community spread of the coronavirus.

Houston Community College will extend its spring break holiday through March 25.

"We have made this decision in order to allow faculty and staff extra time to respond to issues that may arise during the Spring Break period and to prepare for the migration of select courses to hybrid or full online modality," HCC system chancellor Cesar Maldonaldo wrote in a statement to the community.

For its workforce training programs that require on-site work, hybrid options may be offered.

The University of St. Thomas is cancelling class as of noon March 12 and will resume fully online on March 23.

"There are no cases of COVID-19 on campus. Out of an abundance of caution, the university cancelled spring break and summer study abroad trips last week," Director of Communications Sandra Soliz said.

The university is also encouraging staff to self-report travel plans to the administration.

Update at 10:04 a.m., March 12

University of Houston officials announced March 12 that no classes will be held in-person or online March 16-21, in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

Classes are set to resume remotely using an online or alternative format beginning March 23.

Students are asked to stay at home, and faculty and staff will have the option to work from home to the extent that they are able to perform their jobs remotely. University housing and dining services will be open for students who need it, and sanitation and hygiene protocols will be escalated.

UH campuses, including those in Sugar Land and Katy, will remain open for faculty and staff, and offices will continue to operate, according to the announcement.

UH-funded and sponsored events hosting more than 50 people in the Greater Houston area are discouraged through March 31. Facilities will be maintained with "aggressive" sanitation and hygiene protocols, including increased custodial cleaning and availability of hand sanitizer dispensers at all entrances, common areas and elevators.

No confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported within the UH system. Officials urge students, faculty and staff to follow personal hygiene precautions and practice social distancing measures.

Guidelines are also available for UH travel restrictions and instructions for reporting and self-quarantine.
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


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