James Madison University (JMU) is temporarily moving classes online and sending students back home because of a rise in COVID-19 cases and a lack of room for positive students to quarantine, JMU President Jonathan Alger announced Tuesday.
The announcement from Alger to the JMU community comes less than a week after in-person classes had resumed.
“After consultation with the Virginia Department of Health, James Madison University will transition to primarily online learning through the month of September,” Alger said in the announcement. “Additionally, in an effort to reduce the number of people on campus, residents will be asked to return home by September 7th.”
The recent uptick in COVID-19 cases on campus and the capacity of the quarantine and isolation spaces the university can provide students were primary factors in the decision, according to Alger.
Below is all relevant JMU COVID-19 information according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard:
Since July 1, the JMU health center has performed 1,236 tests on students, faculty and staff with 208 cumulative positives tests, representing a positivity rate of 16.84 percent. There have also been 601 active cases and 26 recovered cases in that time.
Since August 17, 415 students and 4 faculty and staff have self-reported positive cases. On Tuesday, the university health center conducted 98 tests with 56 being positive.
Additionally, 54 quarantine/isolation beds are available out of the 143 total allocated.
Harrisonburg had 77 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, up from 61 cases on Monday. Meanwhile, Rockingham County only had 11 cases Tuesday and eight cases Monday, according to the Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 daily dashboard.
Brenham Howard, 20, a junior biology student told the Daily News Record he does not think the school’s decision will be temporary and finds it funny that JMU is using that term.
During September, when less students are on the Harrisonburg campus, JMU officials will keep a close watch on the current health trends in Virginia and will contact faculty, staff and students by September 25 about resuming in-person classes on or after October 5, according to the announcement.
The school will remain open during that time span and provide certain on-campus amenities such as dining and wellness, according to Alger.
Students that are currently in quarantine or isolation should complete the required time before leaving campus. The school also suggests that students should self-quarantine when they arrive home or to their destination, according to the announcement.
In his announcement, Alger said a decision regarding refunds has not been made yet, but that the school will contact students and their parents as soon as possible to speak on the topic. Alger did not specify that the refunds referred to.
“We do not make this decision lightly, especially after all of the efforts on the part of so many people to make the campus environment safe for the return of in-person classes,” Alger said. “All along, we understood that we might need to transition to online learning at any moment if circumstances required. Accordingly, our faculty used the summer months to prepare for various contingencies, and they are ready to deploy interactive, engaging and high-quality instruction in the virtual space.”
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “James Madison University Campus” by Ben Schumin. CC BY-SA 2.5.