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ISU moving to remote learning for first 2 weeks of classes in 2022

A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Radoslav Zilinsky
Getty Images
A computer rendering of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Illinois State University will temporarily move to remote learning in January in what president Terri Goss Kinzy told WGLT is a preventive measure aimed at reducing the potential for a spike in COVID cases once students return from break.

In an announcement to staff and students Tuesday afternoon, Goss Kinzy wrote that all courses, except for a “small number of specific courses” determined on a “case-by-case basis,” will be offered online from Jan. 10-21.

“I think we’re preparing for the worst possibility so that we don’t disrupt our educational process at the very beginning of the semester,” she said in an interview. “We believe this is the best way for us to get off to a really strong start for the semester and stay that way.”

University offices and residential buildings will reopen as planned on Jan. 3; students returning to campus will be required to provide a negative COVID test taken no more than three days before their arrival to campus — regardless of vaccination status. Faculty members returning to campus also will have one week to take an on-campus COVID test, whether vaccinated or not.

“Even though we’re still learning a lot about this new variant, there’s a lot of evidence that it’s highly transmissible…” Goss Kinzy said. “So, the best evidence that we have is that it would be best to bring people back, give them a little bit of time separate from the holiday… and have a rigorous protocol that eases back into the semester without disrupting classes for the students.”

Moving classes to online only, she added, is a way for the university to keep students who might have tested positive for COVID after break in the classroom and on time, versus potentially having to quarantine early in the semester.

The decision came after talks with faculty members, student government leaders and civil service employees — a change from the last time the university faced similar decisions in 2020.

“We’re making the decision as soon as possible — that’s certainly a lesson learned,” Goss Kinzy said. “We’re also able to get a lot more data in real time, so our decisions actually can be more data driven because we get so much more COVID data in real time from authoritative sources than we did a year ago.”

Whether there needs to be an extension of the remote learning period further into January, Goss Kinzy said, will be determined by the university if guidance from federal or state health authorities requires it.

In-person classes are currently set to resume Jan. 24.

ISU’s internally maintained coronavirus dashboard is on hiatus until next year; at the start of the month, the university’s test positivity rate was around 3.8% — lower than that of McLean County, overall.

And despite being one of the universities with the earliest return date in the state, ISU isn’t the first to announce a move to remote learning: the University of Illinois made a similar announcement on Monday, applicable to both its Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses.

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Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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