Dear Campus Community,
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