Spring Break Extended, Classes Temporarily Move Online Due to COVID-19 Outbreak

On Wednesday, March 11, President Valerie Smith sent an email to Swarthmore’s “covid19” listserv detailing the college’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including information for faculty, staff, and students. Colleges and universities across the country have increasingly been taking preventative measures to stop the further spread of COVID-19, including extending Spring Breaks, moving classes online for some period of time, or moving classes online for the rest of the semester. Many colleges and universities have also cancelled their study abroad programs.

Smith wrote that Swarthmore, specifically, has decided to extend Spring Break through March 20 and transition to online classes from March 23 at least through April 3. The college is also encouraging students, including students who have stayed on campus during the previously scheduled Spring Break, to return home unless in the case of extenuating circumstances.

“Students should either remain home or return home now through Sunday, April 5, if at all possible …  At the same time, we understand that some of you are unable to travel home for any number of reasons. With that in mind, we are requiring all students who feel that they need to return to or remain on campus between now and April 5 to complete this housing request form. Students will be asked to include the reason why they feel they must be on campus,” she wrote.

Smith also acknowledged in the email that certain students may not have reliable access to computers or internet at home, and wrote that Swarthmore’s ITS will help those students find solutions.

She also wrote that the college will try to support any students who are experiencing travel-related financial burdens due to these changes and COVID-19.

“We are sensitive to the burden this may place on students who change their travel plans, and we understand such changes might incur additional fees. Several airlines are waiving fees for changes related to COVID-19. If you are unsuccessful in recovering those costs by working with your respective airlines, the College will work to reimburse those fees,” she wrote.

The college has also encouraged students to avoid nonessential personal travel and suspended all college-sponsored travel except in circumstances approved by the President’s Senior Staff.

Before Smith sent the March 11 email, the college had already established a COVID-19 FAQ page with categories of questions relating to classes and academics, campus dining, residence halls, health, and travel.

According to the FAQ page, while the college does not expect the altered academic calendar to affect final exams or commencement, the situation is still evolving rapidly and it is still too early to know for certain whether or not dates will have to change.

“At this time, we haven’t made any additional changes to the academic calendar. This situation requires compressing course material in the remaining weeks of the semester. This is a dynamic situation, and our approach may change depending on how it evolves,” it says.

This story is developing and The Phoenix plans on further covering topics related to the effect COVID-19 on the Swarthmore community. For more of The Phoenix’s coverage on the COVID-19 outbreak, click here.

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