Idaho State University closes Meridian campus; other institutions shift coursework online

Idaho State University closed its Meridian campus Friday, and other institutions announced they’re moving instruction online as the coronavirus closes in on Idaho.

ISU’s announcement followed a student’s return from an out-of-state conference where a case of COVID-19 had been confirmed, the university said in an email Friday. The student and around a dozen others are in self-isolation while a crew cleans facilities through the weekend.

Other institutions are shifting coursework to the internet.

  • The College of Southern Idaho will move all of its classes online on March 30, the Twin Falls Times-News reported.
  • ISU is mulling a similar approach. “In case the eventual need arises, Academic Affairs is finalizing guidance for faculty related to the possibility of moving instruction online,” the university recently wrote on its website.
  • The prospect of an online transition prompted Boise State University to test online-only courses Friday.
  • The University of Idaho will start online classes next week and said things could stay that way for “some time.”

The State Board of Education will discuss at 4 p.m. Friday the prospect of shutting down the state’s higher education institutions. The meeting will happen via teleconference and include presidents from the state’s colleges and universities.

“Our institutions have been planning for some time regarding implications for campus operations in the wake of this public health crisis,” board President Debbie Critchfield said.

Travel is another concern, with spring break around the corner and the global pandemic spreading to nearly every state.

The possibility of people bringing “viruses and diseases back to Pocatello” is one concern, ISU Health Center director Ron Solbrig told KIFI.

On Wednesday, ISU imposed a ban on university activities in Italy, China, Iran, South Korea and Japan.

Meanwhile, the U of I urged faculty and staff to “carefully consider the risks and uncertainties of travel.” University President C. Scott Green notified faculty and staff Friday that an on-campus infectious disease response team is “monitoring the entire state for impacts to any of our many locations and coordinating with Gritman Medical Center and Public Health-Idaho North Central District.”

Officials have also axed sporting events. Boise State Wednesday suspended all athletic competitions until further notice. The Big Sky Conference canceled the remainder of its basketball championships in Boise, and the NCAA’s 2020 March Madness tournament is no more.

Other institutions are stressing preventative measures amid the outbreak.

  • A “core group” of college leaders is meeting to review emergency plans at North Idaho College and develop “continuity of operations and contagious disease response plans.”
  • The College of Western Idaho said employees in some roles may start working via telecommuting.
  • The College of Eastern Idaho urged its campus community to practice basic sanitary procedures, from washing hands often with soap and water to avoiding contact with people who are sick.

As of 10 a.m. Friday, no confirmed cases of coronavirus have surfaced in Idaho. Cases have surfaced in all of Idaho’s surrounding states but Montana, according to Gov. Brad Little’s office.

Check back with EdNews for regular updates from Idaho’s colleges and universities.

Further reading: 

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader contributed information for this story. 

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Devin co-hosts "Beyond the Books" online news segments in conjunction with EastIdahoNews.com. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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