Most West Virginia University and Shepherd University students won’t return to campus for the rest of this semester because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WVU Board of Governors voted Wednesday evening during an emergency meeting to approve switching to online classes for all WVU System campuses for the rest of the semester.

“We are strongly advising and requesting our students not return to campus,” said Rob Alsop, WVU’s vice president for strategic initiatives.

The school’s students are on spring break.

Dr. Clay Marsh, WVU vice president and executive dean for health sciences, said the coronavirus is highly infectious.

“Right now, we want people distributed as much as possible and away from any central core of interactions,” he said.

Shepherd announced its online move in a news release.

Maryanne Reed, WVU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the only remaining in-person instruction will be some clinical rotations and related programs for some students of WVU’s Health Science Center.

About a week ago, WVU announced it would extend its spring break by a week and start offering “online class instruction or other alternative learning options” beginning March 30.

Now, Reed said, the university will switch to online instruction for the rest of the semester.

She said the “Maymester,” a shortened semester planned for May, likely will be completely canceled to get the university’s systems ready for summer classes.

Alsop said only the employees deemed critical for safety, maintenance and some instruction purposes will be required to work on campus.

He said WVU will keep a residence hall and limited dining options open for students who need to stay on campus. Otherwise, he said, the school will keep its dorms secure so students don’t have to immediately return to pick up belongings they left before they departed for spring break.

In a news release, WVU said “a coordinated move-out will be scheduled and announced later.”

Alsop said there will be a credit for students who purchased meal plans, but he didn’t have details. He said mental health services will remain available.

The release said WVU also is considering whether to hold graduation ceremonies and expects to announce that decision by March 25.

Students and staff may visit http://coronavirus.wvu.edu for more information. They may email questions to corona virus@mail.wvu.edu.

Shepherd’s news release said residence halls there will be limited to students who:

  • Claim Shepherd as their only residence, or

Hold a student visa/have refugee status/or other noncitizenship status — and Shepherd is their only U.S. residence, or

  • Are U.S. residents and live a significant distance from campus and feel it is safer to stay on campus than to be at home, or
  • Do not have, and cannot obtain, internet access at, or near, their home residence, or
  • Have other compelling needs that will be determined by Residence Life staff, and accommodations made, as deemed appropriate.

Reach Ryan Quinn at

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@RyanEQuinn on Twitter.