UMass Boston preparing to roll out online classes as coronavirus concerns grow

BOSTON — More than 20 colleges across the United States have already canceled in-person classes due to the spread of COVID-19 - but none of those are in Massachusetts.

Hoping for the best but expecting the worst, UMass Boston officials are preparing for the eventual need to put a hold on regular classes and switch over to online lectures, but say that’s not a final decision yet.

It’s a possibility both students and faculty are well-aware of and have been since the school had the first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in the state back in February. That student, the school says, is doing much better but is still recovering. He remains in self-quarantine and has not returned to campus.

“Health comes first so I don’t mind, I would prefer that actually,” said Shireen Saini, a senior at UMass Boston. “They need to make sure that’s required so there’s no point of sending people home, they need to monitor the situation first.”

On Monday morning, the school sent out a memo to all faculty telling them to immediately start preparing to teach their classes remotely. Students are now being told by their professors of the possibility of the campus closing down and having to switch to online-classes only.

“Some of [my professors] didn’t send an email they just said in class, they made an announcement they were like, ‘By the way we may be switching to online, we will keep you updated on what’s happening,’ and some sent us a basic email saying, ‘This is what might happen,’ nothing set in stone yet,” said Danielle Long, a UMass Boston freshman.

After several internal calls on the topic, a UMass spokesperson told Boston 25 News all 5 campuses are looking at this option. In a statement, he said, “Our goal is to keep our students, staff and faculty safe while also minimizing the impact on student progress to degree, faculty research, and overall business continuity.”

“I was excited but scared,” said Dita Devinta, a UMass sophomore. “I would still prefer to go to school because I work and I want to get money for school."

Students who work on campus and students who take advanced classes and labs say not coming to campus will be a huge disruption.

Other colleges and universities are definitely monitoring the situation closely and preparing for the worst. Boston College and Boston University have sent over similar memos to faculty and students.

Amherst College has told students not to return to campus after spring break, saying the rest of the semester will resume with online classes and lectures. Canceling in-person classes raises the question of whether students can stay in the dorms or if they’ll have to make arrangements to go back home or somewhere else.

Many students who had plans to travel on spring break say the spread of the virus has made them think twice. One student said he was going to New York City, but is now going to stay put.

“We would probably be able to stay in the dorms if we want but a lot of people are going to end up going home if classes are online,” said Long. “I don’t know about you but I would probably go home.”