The Board of Regents has asked the administrators of the University of Iowa, Northern Iowa and Iowa State University to move as quickly as possible towards assessing their ability to hold online classes in the wake of the coronavirus cases in Iowa.

A statement from the Regents’ office says it is important for students, faculty, and staff to prepare for this eventuality in this week prior to spring break. Specific information will be provided by the individual universities no later than 8 a-m on Thursday ( March 12th).

That news comes after the private Grinnell College announced students would not be returning to campus after spring break — and the spring semester will be completed on-line. College Dean, Ann Harris, says they have been monitoring the situation for months.

“We’ve been meeting since about the last week of January, just tracking the coronavirus across the world and across the country and then about ten days ago really started meeting daily to see what our response would be,” Harris says. “Grinnell College has a two-week spring break — and so we started to understand very quickly that we weren’t just doubling the amount of time, exposure and risk — we were really exponentially putting our community at risk.”

Harris says there have been no cases of coronavirus in Grinnell or on campus. She says the faculty and staff have stepped up to ensure they can do the online courses. “We are working with our students individually if they do have any technological limitations, we are able to work with them quite closely. We have this wonderful center for teaching learning and assessment. And then our digital arts collaborative as well. So, we are going to be able to meet our student’s needs there,” she says.

Harris says this is something that they have never had to face before. “We’re definitely in unprecedented areas here — and then we’re using familiar knowledge about epidemiological disease prevent and so forth. We’re seeing about 40 to 50 colleges around the country making these kinds of decisions and setting up these kinds of plans. So, using what we know for really what is an unprecedented situation,” Harris says.

She says their small size of 1,600 students could intensify the impact on campus. “Small liberal arts colleges have a very particular set of conditions in terms of everybody living together, eating together, in class together. So, we absolutely had to take that into consideration as we were thinking about things,” according to Harris.

Harris says about 20% of Grinnell’s enrollment is made up of students from abroad.