Dear Warren Wilson Community,
This unprecedented public health crisis has been hard on everyone in so many ways. College and high school seniors across the nation are dealing with year-end plans changing significantly. They’ve spent years working their way towards graduation, and to have that special day disrupted is painful to say the least.
We have delayed this decision as long as we could, hoping that perhaps we would be able to get past COVID-19 in time for commencement. It has become clear in recent days that we will not be able to gather in large groups for several more months, and that our responsibility is to do our part to stop the spread of this virus.
On May 9, 2020, we will celebrate a virtual commencement, making it as special for our seniors and their families as we possibly can. Then, in May of 2021, we invite all of our graduated seniors to return to campus to walk in that commencement and celebrate with the Class of 2021. This year’s planned speaker, Andrew Revkin, noted science and environment journalist, has agreed to speak at the 2021 commencement.
Please know that all of us at Warren Wilson College are holding you all close in our hearts and minds. We will send out more specific information about our May 2020 graduation in the weeks to come.
President Lynn Morton
Regarding Refunds for Room and Board
Any decisions regarding potential refunds for housing or dining fees will be made by the College after April 1, or after the College is beyond the immediate challenges being faced regarding the spread of COVID-19. We will share more with you about that decision after April 1.
No Classes on Thursday, March 19 or Friday, March 20
In light of our recent announcement about closing campus, Warren Wilson College is canceling classes for Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20 in order to give the students who are remaining on campus time to vacate. Remote learning classes will resume Monday, March 23.
We understand that everyone is adjusting to this new transition. Please continue to refer to the FAQ page: https://www.warren-wilson.edu/about/news-events/coronavirus-faq/, and feel free to reach out to the contacts who are listed there with any questions. The College will support our students as they transition off campus as best we can.
CAMPUS CLOSURE: MESSAGE FROM PRESIDENT LYNN MORTON, March 17, 2020
As you know, when we returned to campus from Spring Break on March 8, it was not clear what local, state and federal guidelines would be, as the COVID-19 outbreak was, and continues to be, a quickly evolving situation. At the time, we made the decision we felt was best for our community. We have been monitoring conditions, in constant communication with local, state and federal health authorities, and we have promised to constantly evaluate and communicate our plans as they evolve.
Since last week, conditions have changed. Yesterday Buncombe County reported its first case of coronavirus. Governor Roy Cooper has mandated that no gatherings of more than 100 people take place across the state, and NCDHHS recommends cancelling events with more than 50 people. All K-12 public schools have closed statewide. Our nation, the state of N.C., and our local communities have all declared states of emergency. Today the governor mandated that restaurants and other venues close, and Buncombe County has mandated the closure of all government functions including parks and libraries. The nation is mobilizing to respond to the pandemic in order to mitigate the impact of the virus in our country, and all indications signify that these preemptive actions will positively impact public health.
In addition, given more information about local and regional health resources as well as updates on the likelihood of further virus spread, we have come to realize that, should there be an outbreak on campus, we would not be adequately equipped to manage it. The health and safety of our community is of paramount concern.
Warren Wilson College must act responsibly. To protect our students, faculty and staff, and in the interest of the greater good of national public health, we have decided to close the campus on Friday, March 20 at 5 p.m. for the rest of the spring semester. Please understand that online instruction will continue and we will complete the semester. Please read the information below carefully.
Students are asked to vacate the campus as soon as possible this week. Students who cannot leave campus by Friday, March 20 at 5 p.m. can apply for an extension to Sunday, March 22 at noon using this form found here (https://forms.gle/pFNhrFKH4CnpCjma8). Students who absolutely cannot return home or relocate can apply for a hardship waiver using this form here (https://forms.gle/HzzDyMnkVyhPx4J67). Please note that hardship waivers to remain on campus will be granted to a limited number of students for very specific reasons, and not for a preference to remain on campus.
Gladfelter will adjust service and hours as needed in response to state mandates and local conditions — please watch for further information from Sodexo.
The Health Center will remain open and fully functioning until further notice.
Resources for storing belongings, vehicle rental, travel and other such supports may be found here.
All administrative offices will remain open and continue working with a combination of remote and on campus presence until Friday at 5 p.m. At that time, all employees except essential personnel are requested to work remotely and physical offices will close, although office work will continue.
The campus closure will continue for the remainder of the semester, and academic work will continue online. Decisions about commencement, summer programming, and the collection of personal belongings for students who left last week will be announced within the next several weeks.
We understand that this announcement is difficult for students for many reasons. We acknowledge the hardship that this decision will cause. However, we are committed to the health and safety of our community. We are also concerned that the window for travel may be closing, which would make leaving campus more difficult. The College will support our students as they transition off campus as best we can. You may also reference a “Frequently Asked Questions” webpage here: www.warren-wilson.edu/about/news-events/coronavirus-faq.
Remember that a community is not solely dependent on location. Our community is strong and resilient, and together we will get through this challenging time. We will be connected to each other differently, but we will be connected. I encourage each and every one of you to continue to support the members of our community and to remain engaged with Warren Wilson no matter where you are for the next few months. I will remain on campus in the president’s house and plan to send regular communications via video and email. Faculty and staff will be reaching out to students to support them electronically. The Owls will return, stronger than ever.
President Lynn Morton
Update on Person Under Investigation, March 13, 2020
We had shared previously that we had one Person Under Investigation being tested per North Carolina Health and Human Services guidelines for coronavirus (COVID-19). Those tests results have come back negative. As of right now, there are no coronavirus cases confirmed in Buncombe County or at Warren Wilson College.
The health and safety of our community is our highest priority. We will continue to monitor the situation, and we are in constant contact with local, state and federal health authorities as it continues to evolve.
-The Pandemic Response Team
Important Message from President Morton regarding COVID-19, March 12, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
Our commitment to the health and safety of our community is our first priority. In light of the uncertainty about the potential spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and in order to protect our community as well as those we come in contact with regularly, Warren Wilson College is putting in place a continuation of instruction and alternative scheduling plan from Friday, March 13 until Friday, April 10.
Please note that no coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Buncombe County or at Warren Wilson College. We have one Person Under Investigation who is being tested per North Carolina Health and Human Services guidelines, but no diagnosis has been made. The person who is considered a PUI is in isolation in accordance with North Carolina Department and Health and Human Services protocol, and they are receiving care and medical attention.
We are not closing the college. We are trying to minimize unnecessary contact for the health and safety of our community. Students have the option of returning home if they choose. If students decide to remain here, campus will remain open. We will continuously review conditions as well as state, county and CDC guidelines, and update plans and communicate as necessary. We will continue to update this webpage, and please see below for more details.
Information by area:
- Classes will continue as usual through the end of today, Thursday, March 12. Classes are canceled for Friday, March 13 and Monday, March 16, so that faculty may prepare to begin online instruction. From Tuesday, March 17 until Friday, April 10, all classes will take place online during that time period.
- Instructors will communicate with students about how to access courses and materials.
- There will be flexibility for students regarding academic courses beyond that date for students who choose to return home during this continuation of instruction period.
- Residence halls will remain open.
- The cafeteria will remain open.
- DeVries Gym will be closed.
- Bryson Gym will be closed.
- Athletic events and rentals will be canceled.
- Outdoor programs will be canceled.
- Regular work shifts will continue until 5:00 pm today, Thursday, March 12, and work will then be suspended through April 10.
- Students will continue to be paid for their work contracts during this time period and will not owe money for unworked hours.
- We will be working with crew supervisors to cover essential work functions on outdoor crews.
- If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- In-person contact is canceled during the March 12 – April 10 time period. Remote projects can be arranged with community partners.
- Tutoring, financial aid, counseling, and advising will be available online and by phone.
- Everyone is expected to continue working as the College will remain open during this online instructional period.
- Work from home where possible – connect directly with your Vice President for any specific instructions.
- Utilize Google Hangouts Meet or RingCentral Meetings for conference calls.
- All events will be canceled or postponed if planned to occur between now and April 10.
- Events scheduled after April 10 will continue to be evaluated.
Travel and Trips
- All college-sponsored travel and trips are suspended through April 10, including in-state travel.
- Travel already scheduled beyond April 10 will continue to be evaluated.
- No new travel should be planned.
Buncombe County is continuing to keep their webpage updated with information about the county’s response and updates on cases in our county. As of the writing of this message, there are no confirmed cases in Buncombe County.
While we recognize the disruption that these measures will entail for our community as well as for our community partners, we are committed to the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff as well as to attending to our duty to the general public health during this challenging time. Please know that college leadership is in close communication with local, state, and federal health authorities and will continuously evaluate and communicate our plans as they evolve.
President Lynn Morton
Important Message from President Morton regarding COVID-19, March 11, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is closely monitoring several confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state. There are currently no confirmed cases in Buncombe County or on campus. According to the March 10 guidelines from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, any patient meeting the following criteria is considered a Person Under Investigation (PUI): fever and signs/symptoms of lower respiratory illness (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), negative influenza test and no other more likely diagnosis.
I’m writing to notify you that we have one student who will be tested by the Health Department for coronavirus (COVID-19) and is now considered a Person Under Investigation (PUI), pending laboratory test results. The student who is considered a PUI is in isolation in accordance with North Carolina Department and Health and Human Services protocol, and they are receiving care and medical attention.
I am in constant contact with our Pandemic Response Team, Cabinet and Warren Wilson health professionals, and we are in daily contact with local, federal and state health authorities. Warren Wilson will continue to use current guidance and recommendations on our campus. The health and safety of our community is our highest priority. The Pandemic Response Team will follow up with any new information or campus response. This is a quickly evolving situation, so please be attentive to further communications from the Pandemic Response Team.
Your health and safety is our foremost priority.
As you are aware, coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread worldwide. Warren Wilson College health officials are closely monitoring the virus’s progress and are in daily contact with local, state and federal health authorities.
We will continue our robust preparation efforts to ensure the health and safety of our campus community. We will also continue to align our plans with the most current recommendations from experts, including following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
At this time, there are no confirmed cases in Buncombe County. We encourage you to monitor the CDC’s COVID-19 information site, in addition to this webpage, for regular updates.
As always, it is important to practice sound prevention precautions, just as those used to prevent cold or flu:
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
· Take a proactive approach to cleaning/wiping/disinfecting your workspaces, offices, counters, surfaces and residence halls.
· Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.
· Cover coughs and sneezes with your arm or a tissue.
· Avoid exposure to others who are sick.
· Stay home while you are ill (except to visit a healthcare professional) and avoid close contact with others.
· Get adequate sleep and eat well-balanced meals to ensure a healthy immune system.
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects (cell phones etc).
· If you know of someone in our community who needs help or is suffering because of this situation, please tell Residence Life, the Counseling Center or Human Resources.
· In situations like this, bigotry and discrimination can thrive. Stand up to it when you see it. Turn fear into constructive action.
Health questions can be directed to the WWC Health Center at 828-771-2053, or after hours, to the on-duty RA.
Striving to Minimize Any Disruption to Classes
While doing our best to ensure your health and safety, we are equally committed to making every effort to minimize potential impact on coursework should access to the college become limited. Faculty, staff and administration will continue to work together to create plans that would allow most, if not all, coursework to continue during a period of disruption. Should it become necessary, students will be notified by faculty of any impact on their courses.
As with new viruses in the past, COVID-19 does not respect borders. The news stories that you see chronicle its impact.
Institutions of higher education are addressing the situation in different ways, depending on factors such as their size, whether they house vulnerable populations (e.g. hospital patients), location and the epidemiological situation there, and scope of presence in other countries. We have made some adjustments to the ways that the college operates, and we will continue to adjust as circumstances and guidance from public health experts changes.
We need your support, your help and your good sense as we go.
Actions Our College Has Taken
The Emergency Response Team continues to monitor guidance from federal, state and local public health experts. We have created a Pandemic response Team that is coordinating the work of small task forces which cover various areas throughout campus. Thus far:
Emergency Response Team has developed reporting and response protocols for different scenarios, including potential cases on campus.
Business Finance and Administration, Academic Affairs, and IT staff in collaboration with the Emergency Response Team, have developed preliminary plans for business continuity, including various business services offices who can potentially work from home.
Academics, IT and the Emergency Response Team have collaborated in developing the protocols and mechanisms needed to implement curriculum delivery online.
The Facilities team is increasing the cleaning/disinfecting of all public areas of the campus.
The Health Center continues to follow federal and local protocols in developing plans for the screening and response of potentially sick students and continues to collaborate with the Pandemic Response Team in campus response planning.
Travel, Conferences and Large Gatherings
As of now, we have not cancelled public events, but we will continue to evaluate them and encourage participants to be vigilant about their own health and how it affects those around them.
If you are planning to attend a conference or large gathering, please consider: the local circumstances, the size and reach of the gathering (larger gatherings that draw globally pose a greater risk), your personal risk with respect to this virus, the importance of the conference to your professional life, and whether the conference organizers are taking appropriate precautions.
We are all facing a lot of uncertainty, and that can make us feel uncomfortable. Just remember it is about preparedness not paranoia.