Florida universities move to online learning for spring semester; cancel in-person commencements

In-person commencement ceremonies will not be held in May

FILE - Colleges across the U.S. have begun cancelling and curtailing spring graduation events amid fears that the new coronavirus will not have subsided before the stretch of April and May when schools typically invite thousands of visitors to campus to honor graduating seniors. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File) (Carlos Osorio, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Florida universities were instructed Tuesday to move courses to online-only instruction for the rest of the spring semester by the State University System Board of Governors.

The switch to full-time remote instruction comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis revealed four University of Florida students had contracted the coronavirus, or COVID-19.

In a news conference Tuesday, the governor said he urged the Board of Governors to extend the temporary suspension of face-to-face instruction through the rest of the spring semester.

UF President Kent Fuch informed his staff and students the university would heed the governor’s recommendation, soon after the State University System was instructing all classes be moved to online only for the rest of the semester.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines Monday recommending that people avoid in-person events consisting of 10 people or more to prevent spreading the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.

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“Effective immediately, remote instruction will continue through the end of the Spring semester at each state university and students who can return home should return home,” the Board of governors said in a statement. “Though not required at this time, state universities should consider using remote instruction for the early summer terms.”

The CDC guideline also impacts spring graduations. The State University System told all schools to develop alternate methods for commencement.

“Traditional on-campus commencement ceremonies will not be held in May. Instead, each university is directed to develop an alternate schedule or method of delivery,” the board said.

As of Tuesday morning, Florida Department of Health officials had confirmed 172 COVID-19 cases in Florida residents and 19 visitors diagnosed while in the Sunshine State. Those numbers also include six Florida residents who tested positive outside statelines.

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