LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) -- Liberty University has now decided to move all classes online after the Governor's ban on events or gatherings with more than 100 people.
Last week, while most every college and university in Virginia announced the extension of spring break and that they were moving classes online for the foreseeable future to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell said they wouldn't follow.
"We originally believed it was safest to return our students following their spring break instead of having them return following greater exposure opportunities from leaving them in different parts of the country for longer periods," Falwell said in a statement. "But, the Governor’s recent decision to limit certain gatherings has left us no practical choice because we have so many classes of more than 100 students. We want to provide for the continuity of our students’ education while doing what makes sense to help slow the spread of the coronavirus to our university family and local community."
Falwell got quite a bit of push back for the decision with even students creating an online petition with more than 11,000 signatures asking him to change his mind.
This weekend, Gov. Ralph Northam announced he was banning all events involving over 100 people in Virginia after the first coronavirus-related death was reported on Saturday, March 14.
President Falwell said there would be no way the school could continue as usual and they will follow the governor's orders.
Falwell is not closing the campus as there are many international students who can't go home. Certain programs, such as aviation, osteopathic medicine and nursing, and certain types of performance classes, like labs, will not be able to be offered online.
Students in those programs and classes will only be able to take them in person but no classes will involve gatherings of more than 100 people.
Students negatively impacted by these new policies or the spread of the coronavirus can seek incompletes as academic accommodations and may use the university’s standard processes to seek other accommodations based on pregnancy, other medical conditions and disabilities.
Dining services will still be open and restaurants will still be open on campus.
Because of the limited number of students on campus, meetings of student clubs and intramural contests are cancelled. Practices for NCAA and club sports teams will be decided sport-by-sport.
The transition of residential courses to online format will be staggered and will begin Monday, March 23, the day after spring break. Students will be getting communications from deans and professors over the next week with details about their classes, including any clinical, experiential, performance-based, or studio learning that may require alternative arrangements. Students should closely monitor their Liberty email and Blackboard for these important messages.
"Please keep the elderly and the others at high risk with this virus in your prayers," Falwell said. "Liberty is taking into account the sometimes conflicting orders and guidance of government officials and public health experts regarding higher education and our unique population. As this dynamic situation changes again, the university will continue to reassess."
Northam declared a State of Emergency in response to the coronavirus on Thursday, March 12.
He has also ordered that all schools be closed for at least two weeks in an effort to help prevent the spread of the virus.
To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:
Keep up with coronavirus news online here.