Coronavirus Update: K-12 Schools to Close; BMCC to Stay Open Online

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All Oregon K-12 schools will be forced to close beginning Monday through the end of March, as ordered Thursday night by Gov. Kate Brown.

The order comes as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout the country. At least one Umatilla County resident has tested positive for the virus and a second is suspected to have it with tests currently being conducted by a lab. The neighboring state of Washington is one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus

Earlier this week, the governor put in a statewide ban on public gatherings of 250 people or more, resulting in the cancellation of several local events.

The Hermiston School Board will hold an emergency meeting today in light of the governor’s order regarding the closure of K-12 schools. The closure, however, does not affect colleges.

This morning, Blue Mountain Community College (BMCC) announced it would take “unprecedented” steps to maintain the safety and well-being of staff and students, but will remain operational. One of the the steps BMCC will implement is holding remote or online classes rather than in-person instruction.

BMCC announced this morning that it will implement the following procedures for final exam week of winter term – which takes place next week – and for the entirety of spring term:

  • BMCC will shift to remote/online learning tools like Canvas and Zoom, where feasible, rather than in-person classes, effective Monday, March 16. BMCC has left the decision up to each instructor’s discretion on if they require a final exam next week and how to do so.
  • When students return from spring break for the start of spring term on Monday, March 30, all in-person classes, where feasible, will be conducted via Zoom or online format. BMCC will have open labs staffed and available during spring break to help students and faculty connect to courses remotely. BMCC will also maintain several “Zoom areas” at each location for those students who need to come to campus or a center location for services if they do not have access to a computer or the Internet at home. However, hands-on labs and programs such as Career Technical Education will continue in person, but BMCC will implement social distancing measures to maintain a distance of three feet between individuals.

“The decision to move to virtual instruction was not made lightly,” said BMCC President Dennis Bailey Fougnier. “The goal is to minimize the need to gather in large groups and spend prolonged time in close proximity with each other in spaces such as classrooms, the library, and the student union. This action is consistent with the recommendations of leading health officials on how to limit the spread of COVID-19 and is also consistent with similar decisions made by a number of our peer institutions. The campus will remain open and operations will continue with appropriate measures to protect the health of the community.”

Since baseball and softball games are held outdoors and with enough space to spread out in the stands, the college is not canceling games or asking fans to refrain from attending at this time. BMCC will, however, implement social distancing measures at games.

This weekend’s games, however, have been canceled and the college in in contact with the Northwest Athletic Conference as far as the fate of future games.

BMCC will cancel college-associated gatherings and group activities that do not allow for individuals to maintain a distance of three feet or more from one another.

All of these changes to operations will remain in place through spring term, however, BMCC will continue to re-evaluate the situation based on recommendations from the state and local health authorities, the CDC and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and make updates as appropriate.

“Put simply, BMCC has never encountered anything quite like this, and our actions are unprecedented,” Bailey-Fougnier said.

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