Trinity University in San Antonio is closing its residence halls and university-owned apartments for the remainder of the spring semester due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.
University officials said Wednesday that students will receive a prorated reimbursement for their room and board.
Trinity also extended its spring break for an extra week for students to give faculty time to move courses online for the rest of the semester.
“While this decision was difficult to make, the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff must be our first priority as we navigate this public health crisis,” said Trinity President Danny Anderson in a statement.
The university notified students Wednesday of the closure, which takes effect Monday, March 16.
Trinity requires students to live on-campus for three years, so most students will be impacted by the dorm closures. The university said students who are unable to return home will be given “special considerations” to stay in the dorms. They can apply to stay by filling out a form with Student Life.
Trinity spokeswoman Tess Coody-Anders said they expect only a small percentage of students will need the exemption. Most Trinity students are between the ages of 18 and 22.
“Students that do not have an ability to return home, or to a host family or friend would be students that would have an exemption to stay on campus,” Coody-Anders said. “For example, we may have an international student that can't get home. We may have a student that has a personal situation that prohibits them from going home. Those are all situations where we'll make accommodations.”
Unless they have permission to stay, students will only be permitted to return after March 16 to collect their belongings.
Coody-Anders said Trinity made the decision to close dorms and move classes online based in part on information provided by local officials.
“If we have students who are being tested and need to be quarantined while their test results are coming back, or if a student were to become ill and need to be isolated, those students would have to be housed on our campus. There is no place in San Antonio available to them through public health,” Coody-Anders said. “We don't have the infrastructure and resources to manage a situation like that, and we would invariably be putting others at risk, not only on our campus, but in the community.”
Coody-Anders said Trinity decided to move courses online for the rest semester to give students who live outside of Texas a better ability to plan their travel. She said approximately one-third of Trinity students live outside Texas.
Most colleges in the San Antonio area decided to extend spring break Wednesday, and several plan to move courses online for at least a few weeks. But Trinity is the only San Antonio college to close its dorms and announce courses will be online through May.
“Not all of our students live within, you know, driving distance of San Antonio,” Coody-Anders said. “It felt like if we were going to make this move we just needed to make this move.”
Coody-Anders said she was confident that Trinity will be ready to move courses online by March 23, although she predicted some “hiccups” along the way.
“No one will have to repeat a credit. No student's success or forward progress will be impeded by this change,” Coody-Anders said. “But each unique situation like a lab or an art class is something that Academic Affairs is working to create accommodations for on a case by case basis.”
Trinity plans to keep its offices, library and other buildings open.