by Abby Koch–Morningside administration sent out a campus and community-wide memo Thursday about its plan to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The memo informed the community on certain decisions made, like recalling study abroad students, and upcoming possibilities that will affect classes. The major announcement from administration was the extension of spring break until March 22, with classes resuming the following day.
Morningside has emphasized that extension is an extreme precaution for the health of everyone on campus. There have been no reported cases on campus, Sioux City, or within Woodbury County. Administration has strongly advised that students stay at their permanent residence, but residence halls and dining services will be open to those who choose to be on campus.
Vice President of Marketing and Communications Erin Edlund has advised that if there is a need that students on campus have, they should communicate with residence life or aides. “I know this community will help solve those questions and make sure that everybody has the resources that they need,” said Edlund. “That communication piece is going to be important, but there are certainly resources here and with dining services back open along with health services.”
Cleaning staff has already begun extra measures to facilities to prevent coronavirus. They have also taken extra time to protect themselves and the possible spread of COVID-19.
Administration, along with other organization heads, hope that with social distancing measures through cancellation or suspension of events will help the decline of COVID-19. All decisions have been shaped by closely following what the CDC and US Department of State is recommending.
“Medical experts are telling us the best way to flatten this thing out is if we start implementing self-quarantine, social distancing, and encourage people to just stay at home,” said Edlund. She also explained this medical advice is the reason for the cancellation of the NBA season, NCAA suspensions, and the cancellation of the winter NAIA championships.
Administration has also recalled all study abroad students. These students, like the Italy study abroad students, have been recommended to self-quarantine for two weeks upon their return. All Italy study abroad students have official returned to their permanent residence and are in the process of their self-quarantine.
International May terms and summer study abroad programs have also been suspended. Junior Trey Kluender is one of the students affected by this announcement and is disappointed he won’t go to Finland and Sweden in May. “I watched the President’s speech Wednesday and when he announced a ban on travel to and from Europe, I knew our trip would be canceled,” said Kluender. “Dr. Spicer’s email confirmed my thoughts. Our group leader reached out to use and told us EF Travel was negotiating with the college on refunds. Our group leader stated that if EF doesn’t refund the total amount, the college will make sure we get all of our money back. So that makes me feel a little less anxious.”
Faculty have been encouraged to return to the college next week, if all in their immediate family feel well, to prep courses to go possibly online during the extended break. Both administration and faculty will work together to ensure that the possible transition is comfortable for students and professors.
Mass Communication professor Dave Madsen, like many other Morningside professors, is looking at his coursework to see what can transfer online. “It’s going to be really tough and there are some classes that I’m not sure how you do it online,” said Madsen.
Faculty have already begun discussing how to handle the situation by setting up mini courses for each other during the off week. Madsen explained that faculty are volunteering in a skill they are proficient in, like Moodle usage or video, to help others with the possible online transition.
Junior Ashley Rolf feels slightly nervous about the possible transition. “It won’t be easy for me because I am a computer science major and it is already difficult for me going to class in the room,” she stated.
Ultimately, what their classes will look like will be up to professors. “We value our faculty very much and we want to make sure that they’re comfortable with us that they’re on board. We really need them here with us to make those decisions,” said Edlund “What I like about the decision that we made as a senior staff team is that [the extended break] gives us a chance to have a little bit more conversation.”
Both faculty and staff have been advised if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or begin to feel ill to stay home. Medical emergency leave has also been put in place to help support them with possible financial concerns they might have.
Morningside administration has stated they fully intend to return to normal campus operations as soon as possible with the priority placed on students. There is a Morningside website that has been advised to check on for future updates, changes and cancellations.