SEATTLE, WA — The University of Washington is scaling back plans to hold small, in-person courses this fall quarter, citing an "alarming increase" in COVID-19 cases seen in Washington and much of the United States.
In late June, UW unveiled plans that would allow for courses with 50 or fewer students to be taught in large classrooms, while larger classes would be offered remotely. The university prioritized physical instruction for "hands-on" courses, which require time in studios, clinics or labs.
As the number of coronavirus cases and rates of transmission continue to grow in King County and elsewhere, school leadership is adjusting the fall outlook to include even less time spent on campus.
UW sent letters to students, staff and faculty Wednesday, informing them of the latest changes.
"Although conditions continue to be extremely fluid and unpredictable, we write today to provide you with the best information and guidance we have and to ensure that you stay as safe as possible while you continue your education.
The vast majority of our classes, including all classes of more than 50 students, are already scheduled for online instruction. However, based on the evidence we have now, we will likely need to move even more courses online, possibly to fewer than 10% in-person classes for undergraduates on the Seattle campus.
In this scenario, in-person instruction would be heavily weighted toward courses in which hands-on and in-person learning is most critical, such as clinical instruction, certain labs, and arts- and performance-based courses. Within UW Medicine and other parts of health sciences graduate education, for example, a large portion of learning is currently happening in person in hospitals and clinics, and that will likely continue.
UW Bothell and UW Tacoma already have the vast majority of all classes offered remotely."
The letter also urges students use caution when considering off-campus options. At least 145 students have tested positive for the coronavirus after an outbreak among 15 fraternity houses along Greek Row, beginning in late June.
"We do not, however, have jurisdiction over housing that is off campus, including the enforcement of masking and physical distancing that will be the norm in campus facilities," the letter reads. "Please think seriously about where you choose to live as well as the choices you make within your living environments."
The university said definitive guidance and details about what kinds of instruction will be permitted in-person would be shared no later than Friday, Aug. 7, including updated course schedules.
Earlier in the day, Seattle Public Schools announced a new plan to teach all classes remotely in the fall would be formally voted on in mid-August, adding to similar plans announced earlier by the Bellevue, Northshore and Kent school districts.