New Mexico State University will move to online courses starting March 31, the day after the university’s extended spring break.
NMSU President John Floros, Provost Carol Parker, Chancellor Dan Arvizu and other university officials held a meeting Wednesday afternoon to announce the decision and the next steps for the university’s community. The meeting allowed up to 1,000 people to call in or watch over web platforms. The campus remains open and about 1,000 students are still living at NMSU and eating in the student cafeterias, Floros said.
Floros said the dining hall has been deep cleaned, the university eliminated the open salad bar and cafeteria workers are serving food behind glass. But, he said, as COVID-19 response continues to evolve in relation to the spread of the coronavirus, the dining hall may change to offering to-go meals only.
Officials said the on-campus health and wellness center is open and will continue to see faculty, students and staff. But the center is screening patients as they arrive for symptoms of the virus, which includes a dry cough, fever and shortness of breath. For any nonessential medical need, officials are asking that faculty, students and staff wait to make an appointment.
So far, no test positive cases of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, have been detected at NMSU, nor Doña Ana County nor in southern New Mexico. But as of Wednesday, there are three presumptive positive cases in El Paso, according to the El Paso Times. New Mexico state officials announced Wednesday the count of positive cases has reached 28 in New Mexico, but all are located in the central or northern part of the state.
Floros’ main message to students, faculty and staff was to stay home if at all possible. Most buildings will be closed and only students, faculty or staff who need to use the building will be allowed in. The university’s library is closed, as is the rest of the campus, to the public during the public health emergency, officials said. But students, faculty and staff can still access the library in-person if needed.
Floros said faculty worked this past week during the extended spring break to prepare to put the rest of their courses for this semester into online class formats. Essential personnel will be expected to continue to report to campus for work.
Officials said that for students who need to return to campus, or to the state once spring break is over, they should check the university’s website for a “decision tree,” to help them decide if they should self-isolate. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has asked people who travel into New Mexico from elsewhere self-isolate for 14 days.
International students who attend classes through a student visa should be able to honor the terms of the visa through online coursework, officials said. But if an international student has concerns, they should reach out to the university.