Whitman campus

A group of Whitman College students took turns on a slackline Thursday afternoon. Some said they weren’t concerned about coronavirus for themselves but are aware of the school’s proximity to Odd Fellows Home and the at-risk group there.

Higher education officials everywhere are rapidly turning out plans to deal with the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in their communities and potentially on campuses.

Multiple colleges have moved all courses from the classroom to the cloud; some have closed campus altogether.

Whitman College

In the most recent update to students, Whitman College officials said Thursday the school will go to an online learning model March 30, the first day of classes after spring break, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Classes were canceled for today; spring break officially starts Monday.

Staff was instructed to report to work as usual.

There are no known presumptive positive cases of the virus on campus, officials said, but efforts to stop its spread are being increased everywhere and Whitman will follow suit.

Students are allowed to stay on campus until the end of the semester, and resources such as food service will be provided. Arrangements will be made for those unable to go home for the summer, officials said in a release.

As was the case before Thursday’s announcement, students are “strongly discouraged” from leaving campus and then returning.

For situations not suited to online learning, Whitman will explore supplementing that curriculum with access to specialized experiences, especially for seniors working to complete their degrees, officials said.

All Whitman-sponsored travel is suspended, as is the spring athletic season. There will be no public events on campus, and access to campus facilities is limited.

No decision has been made on the school’s commencement ceremony, scheduled for May 24.


On Thursday, Walla Walla Community College announced cancellation of all near-future school-sponsored events, including College Rodeo and its Cowboy Breakfast, baseball and softball games, theater and drama productions.

Acting President Chad Hickox said as winter-quarter classes wrap up, faculty and administrators are fine-tuning methods of taking many WWCC classes online — in whole or in part — for the spring quarter, which begins April 1.

While continuity of instruction will be the top goal for every student, each class and study area will be looked at differently, Hickox said.

WWCC administrators are in close contact with public health officials here, Hickox said, as well as coordinating with other Washington state education experts and emergency response leads at Whitman College and Walla Walla University.

Planning is underway in the case of a complete campus shutdown, and an incident management team has been established.

“We have shifted staff time and other resources to increase our sanitization and decontamination efforts as well, doing deep cleans of classrooms, offices and other public areas,” Hickox said.

“I think our approach is very similar to most other colleges in the state, although the lack of student housing at WWCC relieves us of one notable complication facing other colleges.”

Thursday evening Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown ordered all K-12 schools closed from March 16-31.


Blue Mountain Community College’s administration said today some classes, including in Milton-Freewater, are going online where and when that is feasible.

BMCC will shift to remote learning tools like Canvas and Zoom, rather than in-person classes, starting Monday, spokeswoman Casey White-Zollman said.

“We know this will impact students’ finals as next week is finals week,” White-Zollman said, adding that decisions about in-person testing is up to each instructor.

On March 30, all feasible classes will be online, she said.

Labs will be open and staffed during spring break and the college will maintain several spots at each campus for students lacking a computer or internet access.

Walla Walla University

Walla Walla University officials said Thursday they will end face-to-face instruction on its campuses at the end of today as part of efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

There were no confirmed or presumed positive cases of the virus among WWU students, faculty and staff, spokesman Aaron Nakamura said.

Final exams, normally scheduled for March 16-18, will be administered online. Provisions are in place for students wishing to stay on campus, Nakamura said.

Online classes will begin March 30, and the university plans to resume face-to-face instruction April 27.

All university-sponsored international travel has been suspended for now, and school-related domestic travel is strongly discouraged.

“Walla Walla University remains fully committed to supporting our students, faculty and staff,” President John McVay said in a statement.

“We are family, and I invite you to keep us all in your prayers in the coming weeks.”

Sheila Hagar can be reached at

sheilahagar@wwub.com or 509-526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.