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DeKALB – Northern Illinois University will extend its spring break for another week due to COVID-19 concerns, and will conduct "modified courses" through April 4, according to a news release late Wednesday night.
After declining to close campuses when asked Tuesday about whether the continued spread of COVID-19 would affect courses when students returned after spring break, the university has since changed its tune. It announced changes to its spring break and class plans "out of an abundance of caution," according to the release.
"The rapid spread of coronavirus requires that we each take this situation seriously and be responsible members of our NIU community," said President Lisa Freeman in a statement. "This is an unprecedented circumstance that is understandably causing concern and anxiety for each member of our community."
NIU is also a polling place in next week's state primary, and NIU spokesperson Lisa Miner said Wednesday's announcement will not disrupt Tuesday's voting.
Spring break will be extended through Sunday, March 22, which will provide campus leadership the opportunity to strategize how to best continue courses after that while limiting person-to-person contact. NIU staff will also determine how to continue providing childcare and health services to those who need it.
Campus will remain open, and all faculty and staff will continue their regular work schedules, but students will face a different approach. The campus dining halls, library, recreation areas and residence halls will remain open during that time, with modified hours which will be announced in the coming days, the release states.
Face-to-face classroom instruction will be replaced with "alternative methods" for the two weeks after, the release states.
Modified courses will begin Monday, March 23 and go through April 4, with a goal to return to face-to-face instruction by Monday, April 6, pending evolving coronavirus conditions which could extend those dates, the release states.
NIU spokesperson Lisa Miner said faculty will take the extended spring break to work on and develop "alternate modes of course delivery," to replace face-to-face instruction.
She said that doesn't mean every course will be online, though, especially if you have courses which require laboratory work or student teaching.
"Modified means that on a course-by-course basis, they'll determine the best way to teach the content," Miner said. "In some situations, it may be done online, videos, Skype, blackboard, etc. But in others, it may be increased reading, projects, phone calls. There's no one-size fits all approach for the depth and breadth of the content we teach."
Students are encouraged to continuously check their NIU email to keep apprised on how their instructors will handle course-work after spring break, and staff are encouraged to stay home if they're feeling unwell, the release states.
The state of Illinois has 25 confirmed coronavirus cases, and the spread has trickled out of Cook County and into northern Illinois territory, with cases announced Tuesday in McHenry and Kane Counties.
Colleges and universities across the country have begun announced an altered class schedule, with some going so far as to cancel classes in-person for the remainder of the spring semester in lieu of online classes to help prevent human-to-human contact as a preventative measure against COVID-19.