The University of Maine System will transition all classes to online instruction for the rest of the spring semester, and ask students living on campus to leave before spring break ends.
All seven public universities will transition to remote instruction on March 23 after students return from spring break, according to Chancellor Dannel Malloy.
The system’s seven campuses are located in Orono, Farmington, Augusta, Fort Kent, Presque Isle, Portland and Machias.
Students living in dorms will be asked to leave along with their personal belongings by Sunday, March 22, according to university system spokesman Dan Demeritt.
The University of Maine System’s decision will impact the largest number of Maine college students, however, private universities such as Bowdoin took similar measures in not allowing students to return to campus after spring break.
The number of colleges and universities shifting to online-only instruction across the country has escalated in the past few days, as the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
Even though there are more than 124,000 confirmed infections worldwide, according to John Hopkins University, there is no confirmed case of coronavirus in Maine.
“We do not at present have any confirmed COVID-19 cases, although that will undoubtedly change in the near future,” Malloy said in his directive.
“We are unable to reasonably ensure that students will not be exposed to the coronavirus on their travels or return with it from spring break, unnecessarily risking transmission of COVID-19 in our university communities and the state.”
Students who have left campus will be given the opportunity to return to collect their belongings.
For students who cannot leave or have to return to campus after break due to extenuating circumstances, the university will provide residential housing and meal plans, however, they should prepare for limited on-campus activity and interaction, Malloy said in a memo sent out to other state and Maine university officials.
Students who left Maine over spring break and want to return to their on-campus residence will have to notify the university of their travel history and will be subject to quarantine or self-isolation measures on their return.
The universities will remain open and employees will continue to work, Malloy said.