FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Chancellor Terisa Riley, Ph.D., sent a message to University of Arkansas Fort Smith students, faculty, and staff, announcing the decision to transition to remote learning due to the rapid spread of COVID-19.
She notes that the Omicron variant “has created a surge in the state, nation, and even on our campus,” and because of that, instruction and operations will be remote until January 24.
At this rate of spread, exposure, isolation and quarantine it is impossible to continue effective in-person delivery of instruction and services on-campus. So last night, I called a weekly review with the COVID-19 Emergency Management Team, which consists of representatives from Student Government Association, Faculty and Staff senates, AAUP, and each academic and administrative unit on campus. Together, we made the decision to move instruction and operations to remote delivery beginning at 5 p.m. Friday, January 14, 2022, with plans to return to campus Monday, January 24, 2022.Terisa C. Riley, Chancellor, University of Arkansas Fort Smith
The chancellor notes that some exceptions will be made for courses “that must meet in person to achieve immediate learning needs, including those with clinical rotations, internship placements and courses requiring hands-on skills hours.” Academic deans are working with faculty to determine which courses must be taught in person. Students will be notified by January 17 if their classes will continue to be held in person.
In addition to classes, most campus services will move to remote modalities, with the exception of housing, dining, security and maintenance services, which will remain open to ensure residential students continue to have access to safe, secure housing.
“We know this pivot will not be easy for all students, faculty or staff members,” said the chancellor in the email, “but we believe it is the only way to ensure a safe and effective return to campus for the rest of the Spring semester.”
The Barnes and Noble Campus Bookstore has agreed to stay open to serve students and faculty in purchasing the needed materials for courses. The campus center downstairs seating areas, all university housing, the Lions Den Dining Hall, and the 24-Hour Computer Lab in the Boreham Library will remain open for use next week. In addition, the Campus Center 24-Hour Computer Lab will temporarily reopen to ensure adequate access to computer spaces and programs.
Information Technology staff will help students, faculty, and staff who do not have any access to computers or internet at home with loaner wireless hotspots and portable computers or tablets.
The second floor of the Campus Center, retail dining in the Campus Center, the interior of the Boreham Library, the Recreation and Wellness Center and Old Gym, the business center and the Fullerton Administration Building will all close and their operations will move to virtual.
Three events that are part of an MLK Week commemoration will also shift to virtual delivery.
Academic buildings will be closed to all faculty, staff, and students. Only those students and faculty whose courses have been exempted from the remote transition will have access to academic buildings.
The chancellor will provide a campus update on Thursday, January 20.