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RCC to suspend classes, use alternative delivery for rest of semester

Following a trend across the nation in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic, Riverland Community College has decided to suspend classes at all three locations in Austin, Albert Lea and Owatonna starting Monday.

The move essentially extends spring break for the college, but when students return to classes on March 23, classes will not meet in classrooms.

“We are going to alternative delivery,” said Riverland President Dr. Adenuga Atewologun Friday morning. “We’ll use a combination of online using Zoom (online education platform), email … whatever we can do to limit the social interaction. We’re following guidelines from the entire Minnesota State system and the Minnesota Department of Education.”

RCC classes will be conducted in this fashion the rest of the semester as school administration will continue to reevaluate the situation.

This includes the cancelling of any gatherings of 100 people or more up to May 1, when the school will take another look at the situation. As of right now, spring commencement on May 15 is still scheduled to be held.

According to an announcement on the RCC websites, some of the events that have been cancelled include The Hormel Foundation Austin Assurance Scholarship Celebration, program open houses and theater performances.

The statement also said students who rely on work study will be allowed to work assuming they follow health precautions that include washing hands thoroughly in soap and water, staying home if they are ill, cover their coughs at all times and avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

Student housing will remain open and as of earlier in the day Friday the spring sports seasons for baseball and softball were to continue as scheduled, however, later in the day the National Junior College Athletic Association announced it was suspending all spring activities starting Saturday and going through April 3..

RCC is among the latest to suspend classes. Earlier this week, the University of Minnesota suspended its classes and both Rochester Technical and Community College and North Iowa Area Community College have now suspended classes as well.

Atewologun said school officials began looking at the idea of class suspension earlier this week.

“We’ve been monitoring the Minnesota Department of health and based on the number of cases as of Tuesday we thought there wasn’t any need,” he said. “As the number of cases increased with the  suspicion of community spread we thought it would be good for us to take a pause.”

Atewologun also said there is no intention of returning to a normal class structure for the remainder of this semester and that this move was made as a safeguard.

“We don’t have any cases in our college or system,” he said. “We will use the next week to figure out our next steps and our staff and administrators are working on a response for the rest of the term. Safety is our primary concern for our employees and students as well as visitors to our campus.”

It is a sentiment echoed by Minnesota State Chancellor Devinder Malhotra in a release.

“It is paramount that we ensure the safety and security of our students, faculty, and staff,” Malhotra said. “Given the risks associated with the coronavirus, the CDC’s guidelines, and out of an abundance of caution, Minnesota State is taking all necessary precautionary steps. We are working closely with our colleges and universities and the Minnesota Department of Health to continue monitoring the situation.”

As of Friday morning, more than 132,000 cases have been reported in 126 countries. The United States has 1,264 cases with 36 deaths, numbers that are expected to rise.

In Minnesota, the number of cases has risen to 14, including one case in Olmsted County.

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