UPDATED: This story was updated with new information at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 12.
Three major South Florida universities are moving classes online temporarily in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The decisions will affect tens of thousands of students and represent one of the most significant disruptions to daily life in South Florida since the global pandemic began.
Florida International University in Miami-Dade County transitioned all classes to online platforms Thursday in response to a mandate from state higher education officials. The change will be in effect through at least April 4.
“Health officials recommend to use caution with mass gatherings, and they also recommend to practice social distancing. Remote learning offers a viable alternative to face-to-face classes,” President Mark Rosenberg said in a video update posted on the university’s website.
Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton is on spring break now and had been scheduled to resume classes Monday. Instead, the university will begin using online instruction next week and continue through at least March 30.
In both cases, faculty and staff are expected to report to work as scheduled. Students who live on campus are being encouraged to go to their permanent homes if they can.
According to the State University System administration, schools are required to continue offering “essential services” including dining, counseling and health care, “potentially on a limited basis or remotely.”
The state directive to transition to remote instruction does not apply to state colleges or private universities.
Miami Dade College has announced plans to operate normally for now, although administrators are preparing for a switch to online courses should the state require it.
The University of Miami, which is private, announced Thursday morning a plan to extend its spring break through March 22. After, classes will be online through at least April 4.
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