Less than a week ago, Washington State University Vancouver officials were showing students in a video conference what their smaller, socially-distanced classes would look like come August.
It wasn’t to be. Washington State University announced Thursday it would reverse its previous decision to hold limited in-person classes. The increase in COVID-19 cases across the state, according to the university, has made it impossible to host even small classes safely when the fall term begins in August.
“I understand the anger and disappointment and frustration,” Chancellor Mel Netzhammer said in a virtual question-and-answer session. “Honestly, I also understand the relief that so many people have talked about.”
WSU is the latest university to announce it will continue with online education in order to protect students and staff from contracting the virus. Clark College announced in April that classes would remain online through 2020.
At the public school level, area districts are signalling that they are likely to begin the school year at a distance. In a letter to the community on Thursday, Ridgefield Superintendent Nathan McCann wrote that it is “highly unlikely” the district will start the year with in-person classes.
“I recognize that while this news comes as a welcome relief to some, others will be disappointed and disagree with the anticipated decision to open the school year remotely,” McCann wrote.
At WSU Vancouver, officials pledged to provide advising, tutoring and technological support for students struggling with the transition to online education. Netzhammer acknowledged the “mix of emotions” students and staff are feeling, but said the college must prioritize safety in light of the growing number of coronavirus cases.
“Safety has been primary for us from the beginning,” Netzhammer said. “I think we’ve been clear about that and clear-headed about that.”