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Wyoming community colleges extend spring break; Casper College says it'll temporarily go online-only
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Wyoming community colleges extend spring break; Casper College says it'll temporarily go online-only

College

Students read and study outside a classroom at Strausner Hall in Casper College in February. The majority of the state's community colleges will extend their spring breaks in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Five of Wyoming’s seven community colleges are extending their spring breaks this month, and three of them — including Casper College — will move many of their classes online in the latest effort by slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Elsewhere in Casper, the Natrona County School District announced it was canceling large events and any in-state or out-of-state travel.

The various campuses posted the updates to their websites Thursday, 24 hours after the first case in Wyoming was confirmed in Sheridan. A second case was found Friday evening, as an older Fremont County man tested positive.

Northern Wyoming Community College, which has a campus in Sheridan, has said a student and staff member have self-quarantined after they may have been exposed to the virus.

Central Wyoming and Western community colleges have not indicated they’ll be extending classes or moving online. In a statement sent to campus Thursday, Central president Brad Tyndall said spring break will proceed as scheduled. He said trips to certain hot spots have been canceled and that the college will decide whether to cancel large events ahead of each one.

The novel coronavirus, officially designated COVID-19, is a respiratory illness characterized by fever, cough and shortness of breath.

In an email sent to campus Thursday night, Casper College president Darren Divine wrote that the college will extend its spring break through March 29 and will then have classes be moved primarily online until April 12. The college’s semester will not be extended, he said. Campus will remain open during this period. Until classes move back to in-person, Divine said, he “strongly discourages hosting or attending any non-essential large gatherings on campus.”

“I want to remind the college community to please enjoy the upcoming Spring Break,” he said. “The College is open, and remains a place that is welcoming to students, faculty, staff, and community members alike. While these operational changes are necessary to minimize the spread of COVID-19, they will not change the spirit or mission of the college, and certainly will not dilute our commitment to maintaining a high degree of excellence in education!”

In a statement posted to its website Friday afternoon, Laramie County Community College said it will extend its spring break by a week and that, beginning April 1, “classes will resume and (be) delivered primarily in an online format.”

At Northern, spring break will be extended by two weeks as the college looks to move online.

“At this time, we are hopeful that a three-week period with most of our campus population off site will help reduce the severity of the spread of COVID-19,” said college president Dr. Walter Tribley. “We also hope this move would ultimately help us get back to normal operations sooner rather than later and reduce the impact on local healthcare infrastructure.”

Eastern Wyoming said it was canceling classes for a week starting Monday. Northwest Wyoming is also extending its spring break and will have coursework go online “wherever possible for as long as needed.”

Laramie County, in a brief message on its website, said there were no confirmed cases in the area. Western said it was working with its local hospital.

The moves came less than 24 hours after the University of Wyoming announced it would extend classes by a week and it, too, will consider whether to move classes online. The extra week off will be used to make moves in that direction, college officials said.

Jason Wilkins, the president of UW’s student body, said his organization is preparing to set aside $75,000 to help students who may lose income as a result of the virus’ spread.

Photos: Community responds to coronavirus

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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