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Amherst College to shift to remote studies after spring break amid virus uncertainties

People walked along the campus of Amherst College in Amhearst.
People walked along the campus of Amherst College in Amhearst.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff/file

Amherst College is cancelling classes later this week and switching to online education after spring break because of concerns about COVID-19, the college said.

All classes will be cancelled Thursday and Friday, and spring break will take place March 16 through March 22. After the break, classes will shift to being completely online so they can be fulfilled remotely, President Carolyn Martin said in a statement Monday.

The college appears to be the first in Massachusetts to take such a dramatic step, though many institutions have limited the size of gatherings and made other policy changes to help address concerns about the virus’s spread.

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All Amherst faculty and staff will remain on campus and continue their normal work schedules, but students will not be allowed to stay past March 15 unless they get permission from the college, Martin said. Students have until Wednesday at noon to petition to remain on campus over the break.

“We know that many people will travel widely during spring break, no matter how hard we try to discourage it,” Martin said in the statement, “The risk of having hundreds of people return from their travels to the campus is too great. The best time to act in ways that slow the spread of the virus is now.”

The duration of the disruption has not been determined, but Martin recommended students take as many of their belongings as possible, especially things that are needed to continue studies remotely.

“It saddens us to be taking these measures,” she said in the statement. “We know these decisions pose significant challenges and wish they were not necessary. Our goal is to keep members of our community as safe as we possibly can while ensuring that students can complete their coursework for the semester and the daily operations of the institution can continue.”

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