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Saint Mary’s to extend online learning through the end of spring semester, allowing authorized students to remain on campus

| Thursday, March 19, 2020

Saint Mary’s will extend online learning to the end of spring semester following Center for Disease Control (CDC) instructions to continue social distancing for the upcoming eight weeks, Interim President Nancy Nekvasil announced in a campus-wide email Thursday. There are currently no reported cases of COVD-19 at Saint Mary’s, according to the College’s updated FAQ page, but the College is continuing to monitor and react to the global situation.

“Our nation is facing unprecedented circumstances as we fight for our collective health and safety,” Nekvasil said. “There is simply no way I can ask you to come back to campus and risk your health, or the health of our faculty and staff.”

Thursday morning, South Bend Mayor James Mueller announced a non-essential travel ban for residents of the city and county. This emergency declaration will impact plans to help students retrieve their belongings from the residence halls, Nekvasil said. According to the FAQ page, these items will remain secure in locked student rooms.

“At this point, please do not come to campus,” she said. “We are gathering information on how best to facilitate the move-out process in an orderly way that minimizes health risks for students and their families. Thank you for understanding that for the time being, you must not return to campus until you are provided instructions.”

However, students who have been authorized by the vice president of student affairs to remain on campus will still be accommodated.

It is unclear whether students will receive reimbursements for room and board, Nekvasil said, though plans will be communicated as they are put in place.

“This is a complex process, as any refunds might require us to adjust financial aid,” she said. “We expect clarification from the federal government on this matter and want to avoid taking any premature action that could inadvertently result in added out-of-pocket expenses for families.”

Nekvasil said she has yet to make any decisions regarding Commencement, despite the scheduled date of May 16 falling outside of the time period recommended by the CDC.

“Having participated in 36 ceremonies, I know it is one of the most important events for our Belles, and I am committed to doing everything I can to allow the Class of 2020 their moment of recognition,” she said.

Any potential changes to Commencement will be announced in the following weeks, Nekvasil said.

“Our lives have been turned upside down,” Nekvasil said. “We’re all adjusting to new realities every day. As COVID-19 moves toward its peak in the United States, the steps to mitigate its transmission are, of course, taken to keep each other safe. It is this perspective that has put me more at ease, knowing we can come together as a community and as a nation to protect those we love.”

At the same time, Nekvasil said she recognizes the unfairness present in the current situation, and urged the Saint Mary’s community to remain hopeful.

“Even I grieve for what I anticipated my final semester at Saint Mary’s would be,” she said. “Like you, I imagined a much different spring than what has come to pass. We will get through this, and we will see each other again soon. Until then, I hold you in my prayers.”

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