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UTEP President Heather Wilson announced the university will prolong spring break for a week and shift classes to online starting March 30.
“UTEP will participate in community mitigation practices to slow the transmission of respiratory virus infections,” Wilson said during a press conference Friday, March 13.
The university plans to have students finish the semester remotely.
“We want to keep our students, faculty and staff healthy to the best of our ability,” Wilson said. “We want to complete the semester without disruption of educational progress.”
Wilson said UTEP’s Center for Accommodations and Support Services staff will be helping, accommodating and working with students with disabilities.
“We have tech support services and Extended University, who are experts at making those accommodations,” said Interim Provost John Wiebe. “They’ll be ready to support faculty as they prepare for remote delivery.”
Extended University is UTEP’s “hub for online and other nontraditional academic programs, professional training and education,” according to its website.
The entire campus will remain open while observing social distancing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Wilson said.
“We will do everything we can as faculty and staff to keep (students) on track for (their) degree,” Wilson said. “But this is going to require hard work and flexibility from you, too. We know that. In every challenge, an opportunity.”
For courses or labs that cannot be taught remotely, university faculty and staff will reconfigure the classes and classrooms to “achieve social distance,” Wilson said. During spring break, university staff will adjust public spaces to distance seats and more.
“This is a very large and complex institution and, while we’re announcing and putting out guidelines to our faculty, staff and students today, there are thousands of decisions that are made every day,” Wilson said. “Which is why we’re giving … goals to our faculty and staff … and asking them to use their intelligence and creativity to meet the needs of our students.”
Following the declaration of state of disaster of Texas, the university expects that other large gatherings that are renting space from UTEP, including the Don Haskins Center, will be postponed or cancelled.
UTEP has suspended university-sponsored travel, with the exception of those crossing to and from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Wilson said it is too early to announce whether spring commencement will be cancelled, postponed or continue as planned.
Information about which computer labs will be open and available for students will come later, Wilson said. The labs will be cleaned to ensure student access.
UTEP’s Technology Support Services offered remote teaching workshops and webinars for professors to prepare for the university’s possible closure the same Friday.
El Paso Community College (EPCC) will resume classes online starting March 30 and throughout the duration of the semester.
“Classes comprised of components that can’t be done online such as clinical, practicums and some labs will be handled on a case-by-case basis. Students should contact their instructors,” according to the EPCC website.
Valeria Olivares may be reached at [email protected]