UTSA's main campus.
UTSA along with other area colleges have delayed the return of students following spring break as coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to threaten communities across the country. The university's plan is to roll out online instruction following the extended break. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Alamo Colleges students were out of class and on spring break when officials from both institutions announced Wednesday that instruction would move online in an effort to minimize the impact of coronavirus.

UTSA President Taylor Eighmy wrote to students that the school would extend spring break through the week of March 16 to allow faculty and staff more time to prepare for online instruction.

Alamo Colleges is implementing a similar plan, in which classes will resume online on March 23.

To date, no case of coronavirus that was spread within the community has been confirmed in San Antonio. However, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has received hundreds of evacuees flown in from Wuhan, China, and repatriated from coronavirus-stricken cruise ships. There are no confirmed or suspected cases at either of the campuses at this time, officials from each of the universities said.

“Students are encouraged, when feasible, to live at home with their families or at their permanent residences during the spring break extension and for the duration of the online instruction period,” Eighmy wrote. “We recognize that some UTSA students make residence halls their home. UTSA housing will remain open for those residents who choose to stay on campus, including the March 16 spring break extension week.”

Eighmy said that UTSA’s two biggest priorities are sustaining the health of the community and ensuring the academic progress of every student. The university expects coronavirus to spread more broadly in Texas in the coming weeks.

“Our best chance of slowing the spread of coronavirus is to make these changes now, before we begin to see cases on our campus,” Eighmy said.

In contrast with their K-12 counterparts, college students are likelier to travel during spring break, which is difficult for higher education institutions to track and implement necessary precautions.

UTSA expects to continue virtual instruction and social distancing, or the practice of limiting social contact to prevent spread of the virus, through April 12 at a minimum. The academic year has been extended to May 8, and the spring final exam period has been condensed to May 11 through 15.

UTSA campus services, including dining services, libraries, the campus recreation center, student union, student health services, and the counseling and mental health services will remain open. University officials are asking organizers to consider canceling or postponing large meetings or events of more than 50 people if they cannot be organized virtually.

At Alamo Colleges, summer study abroad programs are canceled. Community college officials plan to evaluate future programs as the situation progresses and have postponed all sporting events and extracurricular activities through April 15.

Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Texas A&M University-San Antonio also announced it would extend its spring break for students through the week of March 16. When classes resume, students will receive instruction online. University officials said they would evaluate the need for remote instruction beyond March 27 and update students as needed.

The Southside campus will remain open for normal business operations and support services. The university’s one residence hall will reopen to students on March 15 for students who plan to return on that date.

“Our primary goals [are] protecting the health and safety of our university community, and accurately informing our students and employees as best as we can in this dynamic, evolving situation,” said TAMU-SA President Cynthia Teniente-Matson. “Preparations include equipping managers and staff with comprehensive information and protocols.”

St. Mary’s University

St. Mary’s University announced Wednesday that it would extend spring break for students by one week with classes resuming on campus for students on March 23. The campus will remain open and faculty and staff will continue campus operations, the university’s announcement said.

Our Lady of the Lake University

Our Lady of the Lake University officials announced they would extend Spring Break for students enrolled in in-person classes through March 20. Online classes will proceed as planned. All instruction will move online on March 23, officials said.

OLLU’s campus will remain open as planned, and students will be able to stay in residence halls. Student services including dining, the library, computer labs, and counseling services will remain open. OLLU is prepared to maintain online instruction through April 14.

University of the Incarnate Word

University of the Incarnate Word is extending spring break through March 20 and plans to hold classes starting March 23 online. The school is also asking all international students with F-1 visas to return to campus by March 16 to meet with the UIW International Office for special instructions. The university plans to communicate further details on March 12.

All other UIW functions will operate as normal, and faculty and staff are expected to continue to work from UIW locations.

Trinity University

Trinity University officials announced Wednesday it would transition to online classes for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester.

Spring break will be extended at Trinity through March 22 with residence halls and City Vista Apartments, where students live, to be closed for normal occupancy beginning March 16.

Trinity is only permitting students to return to campus to collect their personal belongings. The university said it would make special considerations for students who cannot return home.

“While this decision was difficult to make, the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff must be our first priority as we navigate this public health crisis,” said Trinity President Danny Anderson.

Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the Rivard Report.