BUCKHANNON — West Virginia Wesleyan College informed students, faculty and staff on Thursday morning that the campus decided to transition to online course instruction, beginning Wednesday, March 18, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students have been instructed to make plans to return home by Sunday, March 15 at 5 p.m.
Sports programs, campus events and community service organization projects are discontinued for the semester. Hearts are heavy on Wesleyan’s campus, as all share hugs and tears for the semester, and for seniors, who say their goodbyes. In conversations, students expressed great sadness for leaving the campus and community, as well as concerns for returning home. Students showed concern for the Buckhannon community and the effect the early departure may have on local businesses and community service projects.
Many students expressed fears of returning home to places that had confirmed cases. David Taylor, from Washington D.C., expressed, “D.C. is going to be quarantined. I don’t know how it’s going to be when I arrive at home or how I’m going to get everything in order to leave in three days.” According to the campus website, 5.61 percent of the campus population are international students, and 35.91 percent come from out-of-state. Undergraduate students represent 29 countries and 34 states. Thursday afternoon, the Center for Disease Control announced 1,215 reported cases in the United States, with 36 deaths across 42 states and the District of Columbia.
International students are of particular concern, due to travel bans and flight tickets. Sai Sakamoto, a sophomore international student-athlete from Japan said, “Our tennis team cried this morning for our seniors and the discontinued semester. Our season is now over. I am afraid to stay here because of poor health insurance, but I am afraid to travel by airplane because of contagion. I will likely have to be quarantined when I arrive at home.”
WVWC participation in all intercollegiate athletic competitions, including NCAA and Mountain East Conference athletic competition will end on March 12.
Coursework will continue for Wesleyan students and faculty. Online/alternative course delivery will continue through the end of the 2020 Spring semester. These methods may include recorded lectures, online discussion groups and posts, and other means. Laboratory and performance classes are being evaluated and more information will be provided in due course. Students with clinical rotations, student teaching and internship courses will also be provided with additional information. All May Term and summer international travel trips are canceled. At this time, the college does not plan to cancel Commencement weekend.
Students have been strongly encouraged to be out of their residence halls by Sunday, March 15 at 5 p.m. As instruction is moving online and continuing, and financial aid and scholarships are not being reduced, the College will not refund tuition. For similar reasons, room fees will not be refunded either. The college is still evaluating board. For students who are unable to move out, accommodations are being made to consolidate student housing, allowing for closure of residence halls. Food service will continue to be provided and hours will be announced when available. Students have been informed, however, that they should be prepared for the eventuality that the college may need to implement a reduced or alternate dining service in the future.
The College will remain operational and all offices will be open and fully staffed. Essential employees will be required to report to work. Beginning Thursday, March 19, supervisors will determine if an alternate plan for remote staffing will be implemented. Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library will be closed for all non-campus affiliated individuals starting March 12 at 4:30 p.m. Prospective students are still welcome to visit the campus. The Admissions Office staff will continue to be available to provide campus tours, answer questions and assist students with the selection of their college home. Students who wish to schedule a campus tour should call (304) 473-8510 or go online at www.wvwc.edu.
WVWC President Joel Thierstein stated in his email to students this morning, “I have watched the Wesleyan community come together around this issue over the past several weeks as we have dealt with the disruption caused by this health crisis. Wesleyan is, and always has been, a strong caring community. We appreciate your patience and flexibility in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you for all you do for West Virginia Wesleyan College.”
For ongoing updates on the effect of COVID-19 on Wesleyan’s campus, visit wvwc.edu and for more information on COVID-19’s spread in the US visit the Center for Disease Control’s website at www.cdc.gov.