By David Rasbach / The Bellingham Herald
BELLINGHAM — Hours after Whatcom County declared a health emergency with its first confirmed positive case of novel coronavirus, Western Washington University announced that it was moving the rest of its classes for the winter quarter online.
Beginning Wednesday, March 11, the school will not offer any face-to-face classes through the end of the quarter on March 20, a letter from WWU President Sabah Randhawa to the campus community late Tuesday stated.
Randhawa cited the county’s first diagnosed case of COVID-19 — a woman in her 60s who received medical care at St. Joseph hospital, improved and was sent home to self-isolate — as the reason Western decided to make the decision at the time it did.
As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, no other Whatcom County schools announced any changes on their websites or social media following Tuesday’s news.
“I know this disruption at the end of the quarter may cause some concern, but please know that we have been planning for this possibility,” Randhawa wrote. “Your understanding and patience and care for others is greatly appreciated.”
With the move, WWU faculty will provide exams online or make other arrangements for students, Randhawa wrote, including the possibility that final grades would be based on work already completed.
While there will no longer be any instruction on campus, Randhawa reported that other campus operations will continue as normal.
At this time, the school plans to resume classes after spring break on March 31.
Whatcom Community College already was already planning for a one-day cancellation of face-to-face meetings on Wednesday, while Bellingham Technical College will end its semester six days early on March 20.
The Meridian School District announced late Monday that it was closing its schools Tuesday and Wednesday after a staff member was exposed to a person confirmed to have COVID-19 outside the area and began showing flu-like symptoms.